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A parenting plan should cover several areas

Before a parenting plan can be written, parents must determine if they will be engaging in cooperative or parallel parenting.

In New York, the family law courts generally want to see parents work together in the best interests of their children. For example, it is often best when parents can collaborate on parenting plans and decide custody issues themselves rather than have their conflict be so acrimonious a judge has to do the deciding. (That said, in cases such as domestic violence or parental alienation, there may be no option but to go to trial to keep the children as healthy as possible.)

Parents who are working together to co-parent their children often use parenting plans as a guideline, or blueprint. Here is a look at several areas this plan should cover.

Whether to go cooperative or parallel

In some cases, parallel parenting, rather than cooperative parenting, is necessary. Parallel parenting occurs most often in high-conflict cases and keeps parents away from each other whenever feasible. For example, parallel parents might communicate with each other through a third party and have a third party transport their children to the other parent's house.

Cooperative parenting is the ideal. In this type of parenting, the parents can communicate with each other and resolve disagreements themselves. They can be true co-parents.

In cooperative parenting, the parents have enough flexibility so that each word in the parenting plan does not have to be set in stone. With parallel parenting, the parenting plan should be as encompassing as possible because there is little to no room for stretching. Thus, if any modifications need to be made, the process may have to go through the legal system.

The basics

The parenting plan must, however, be approved by the court based upon the needs of the children. Many courts frown upon alternating the children's living arrangements so that the children are ensured a strong measure of stability.

Parents may also want to include a right to first refusal. Say Parent A has to work on a Thursday night. Instead of getting a babysitter, Parent A must ask Parent B first if he or she would like to be with the kids during that time. Many parenting plans also have sections on when it is appropriate to introduce children to someone a parent is dating. A plan might also cover rules such as cellphone use, methods of discipline, what films and/or video games the child can watch/play (R-rated, for example) and church attendance.

A comprehensive parenting plan in New York has obvious benefits for parallel parenting. It can be a huge help in cooperative parenting as well, as it gets parents thinking early on many issues and working together on them. Both parents can use their attorneys to aid in the development of these plans.