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A Parenting Plan is part of a separation agreement. In the United States it is required by the district court along with divorce paperwork when parents divorce or separate. Depending upon the jurisdiction, separated parents may also enter into a Parenting Plan without ever going to Court.
A Parenting Plan sets out the schedule and protocols for the living arrangements of children with separated parents. It allows parents to avoid future conflicts arising from a lack of guidelines in dealing with responsibilities relating to the children. Without specific agreements around these responsibilities disputes can arise and litigation may be needed to resolve these issues. When parents do not comply with this law the court is then forced to make decisions about the children's lives and come up with a Parenting Plan of their own. Parents can consider including binding arbitration where an arbitrator will make the same decisions that a judge would to avoid the courts in the future.
A Parenting Plan may address some or all of the following topics:
- Parenting Time (physical custody)
- Decision Making (legal custody)
- Transportation and Exchanges
- Annual Vacations and School Breaks
- Child Support
- A Dispute Resolution Process
- Schools Attended and Access to Records
- Physical and Mental Health Care
- Contact Information, Relocation and Foreign Travel
- Social Activities and School functions
- Overnights and Visitation
- Communications and Mutual Decision-Making
- Mediation and Arbitration
- Medical Insurance and Related Expenses
- Contact with Relatives and Significant Others
- Taxes and Wills
Financial issues such as child support, health insurance, tax issues, and survivor benefits differ by jurisdiction. Parents often determine these issues in a different process than determining the schedule for their children.
In some jurisdictions, communities have a common parenting schedule that integrates with daycares, school bus service, sports and activities. These are organized by the Fair Parenting Project.
If the parenting plan is agreed by the parties before the court hearing, it is called "stipulated" or 'on consent'. A judge can approve such a stipulated parenting plan without a court hearing. Judges normally encourage parties to reach an agreement, rather than to go to hearing.
In most of the states there is a law required that court-ordered parenting plans must set forth the minimum amount of parenting time and access a noncustodial parent is entitled to have. If the minimum time requirement is missing from the court order, that can lead to potential appeal of the order in a higher court. The first parenting plan usually is a part of divorce order, if children are involved. Parents later can modify the existing parenting plan by filing a new request with a court when circumstances have changed like parent relocation, child abuse issues, health problems etc.
The standard short-distance visitation plan by the family court in most U.S. states consists of alternating weekends and some holidays, there are also medium and long-distance parental plans that allow to combine these visits into a longer stretches of time to reduce traveling. A journal of the American Psychological Association published an article with recommendations for parenting plans for children under the age of four years. The article was published with endorsements from 110 researchers and practitioners including prominent international authorities on early child development and divorce. Parents normally can make variations to the state standard parenting plan or develop a different custom plan if the judge approves the changes.
However, the child, at or around the age of 13, depending on the state, may have a right to testify in court about custody and parenting plan arrangements, which normally has a big impact on court decision.
Parenting plans can also include various restrictions and general notes about parents contact with child, like regulation of safety issues, medical care, sports attendance, and many more. Sometimes a parenting plan has a restriction on parents relocation or waiver from state rules allowing parents to relocate without the request to court.
In England and Wales the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, a non-departmental public body, produces a booklet Parenting Plans Putting your children first: a guide for separating parents. 
Parenting Plans in Australia are a written agreement between two parents and are made without the assistance or endorsement of a court, but can be made with the assistance of a mediator. They are non-binding and not legally enforceable and so cannot be contravened. A parenting plan can be written in such a way that it can submitted to a court for endorsement, but once endorsed it becomes a consent order. There is no such thing as a "standard" parenting plan as each one is unique, but there are example parenting plans available.
Although a parenting plan isn't legally enforceable, if legal action is initiated after a parenting plan has been agreed the court will give careful consideration and considerable weight to the agreed plan as it shows the intent of each parent at the time of signing.
Parenting plans can include as many or as few considerations about the child(ren) as both parents agree to, however child support payments are not generally included as payable child support is calculated by the Australian Government Child Support Agency (CSA).
The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting)  was formed in Australia in 1998.
The party’s web-site states that the core policies centre on the issue of family law and child support reform. This is by emphasising legislative changes in order to enshrine a child's natural rights to a meaningful relationship with both parents, and legal and procedural changes to ensure that the Child Support system is fair, equitable and aimed at fulfilling its primarily goal, that being to support the child/ren.
The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) is currently registered as a political party with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
Upon the introduction of the joint-custody in the national legislation in Romania, a standard parenting plan was released with the public. This is re-using Florida parenting plan and was created by the Romanian Association for Joint-Custody. The plan was adapted to the specific of Romania and it is now being used by the mediators across the county.
The parental plan is infrequently used in Spain as well.
Belgium & the Netherlands
- See http://FairParenting.com
- "Oregon 107.102 Parenting plan".
- "Cloudnine Unveils the Pregnancy Mobile App to help and Advice All Indian Parents-to-be".
- "Tennessee, Minimum parenting plan requirements" (PDF).
- "Georgia parenting plan" (PDF).
- "Florida Parenting Plan" (PDF).
- "California Parenting Plans".
- "Florida Approved Parenting Plans".
- "OREGON STANDARD PARENTING PLAN".
- "NEW HAMPSHIRE PARENTING PLAN" (PDF).
- "New York Parenting Plan sample" (PDF).
- Warshak, R. A., with the endorsement of 110 researchers and practitioners. (2014). Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 20, (1), 46-67.
- CAFCASS (2006). "Parenting Plans: Putting your children first: a guide for separating parents" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- "Parenting Plans in Australia". 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-31.
- "Example Parenting Plan" (pdf). 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-31.
- "Australian Government Child Support Agency".
- Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting). Home Page. Date accessed 28 March 2013.
- Australian Electoral Commission’s current Index of Registered Political Parties. Date accessed 28 March 2013
- A series of articles on this were published here[unreliable source?]
- See also the article published on the top juridical web side in Romania, here
- The Romania parenting plan can be accessed here[unreliable source?]
- Please see a translated version of the Spanish parental plan here
- See the Dutch Civil Code - Book 1, Law of PErson and Family Law, Title 1.14 Authority over children