A parenting plan includes the schedule of when the children spend time with each parent. A child’s age and stage of development is a big part of what influences the parenting plan. As a child grows up, or as needs and circumstances change (for the child or parent), the schedule may need to adapt as well. A schedule for a one-year-old is often different from a schedule for a six-year-old or sixteen-year-old.

If you are just starting out in developing a parenting plan, you can build in when or how the parenting schedule will change over time. This could include very specific changes that occur at specific times (one overnight is extended to two overnights at a certain age, for example), or a process. The process could be as simple as a review date, a direction to attend mediation at certain points, or how/when to use a parenting expert as a resource.

The agreement can strike a balance between certainty/stability and the option to evolve over time with the child, as necessary.

If the parenting plan is silent on future changes, there may be disagreement about if, when, or how to address a change. It may depend on the wording of the parenting plan, whether that parenting plan is interim or final, or whether the parties have an Order or an Agreement. For example, under the Divorce Act, the ability to change a Court Order is governed by specific wording and sets a reasonably high threshold for changes. But a variation of a previous Order is still possible.

Another benefit of addressing if, when, and how the parenting schedule may change is to reduce confusion and disagreement over these threshold issues.

A good resource on parenting plans is available at Resources | AFCC Alberta Chapter.

If there is already a final parenting order or agreement in place, you may wish to consult with your lawyer about what options are available to review or amend your order or agreement to change the parenting plan. You may also want to consult with your lawyer about different options, legal effects, tips for negotiation or when going to court may be necessary. Whether just starting out with a parenting plan, or looking to update a parenting plan, consider a process that remains “child focussed” to reduce conflict between parents and helps support the child.

For more tips, see I Just Want it Done! or talk to Ceri or another of our lawyers to get information and advice.

Written by Ceri Chwieros