Parenting Plans

Separation & Divorce Resource Centre
Box 20056, RPO Bow Valley
Calgary, AB T2P 4H3



Part A: Information

Parenting plans are increasing in popularity as courts become more aware that if the focus is shifted toward a more "child centered" divorce, emphasizing and encouraging the ongoing involvement by both parents, everyone will benefit - children and parents alike.

The secret of successful co-parenting is putting the needs of your child or children ahead of your own. When both parents focus on the needs and best interests of the children, an effective co-parenting relationship, surprisingly, emerges.

When parents reach agreements and schedules on their own, they are more likely to remain cooperative as their children grow up (a definite benefit for the children).

What is a Parenting Plan?

  • A parenting plan is a formal statement (the degree or formality will depend on the parents and their ability to work together) that establishes how parents will spend time with their child or children; how they will share information; how they will make decisions regarding their child or children and how they will resolve other parenting issues.

  • Parenting plans place less emphasis on legal labels (sole custody, joint custody, etc.) and focus instead on the divorcing parents own plan for parenting.

  • Parenting plans may be created by the parents themselves, with their attorney or with a mediator.

Creating a co-parenting relationship and sharing decision making powers with a former spouse is not easy, but by taking one step at a time it is possible and as you reduce conflict and encourage communication, your children will feel more secure and less afraid.

Are Parenting Plans Necessary?

The quick answer is no. Written plans, however, provide children and parents with some assurances of maintaining meaningful contact and can help prevent future conflict.

Simply put, children do best when their parents cooperate - when parental conflict is kept to a minimum and the children are able to experience loving and meaningful relationships with both parents.

Children who experience ongoing conflict between parents, are at high risk for suffering serious long-term emotional problems.

In certain circumstances there may be a need for a safety focused parenting plan. The safety focused parenting plan will require more work and potential negotiation than a standard parenting plan.

Parenting Plan details:

Your parenting plan may be either general or detailed. Of course, the more detailed your parenting plan is the more difficult it will be to put together. At a minimum the plan should state the time the children will be with each parent.

What does a Parenting Plan cover?

In general terms a parenting plan will cover:

  • The amount of time the child or children will spend with each parent and extended family,

  • Education and religion,

  • Residential and child-care arrangements/responsibilities,

  • Recreation and holiday arrangements,

  • How the parents will make major decisions about the child or children,

  • Empowering either parent to make emergency medical decisions when the child is in their physical custody. That parent is then required to notify the other parent.

More specifically, a Parenting Plan will cover:

  • Who the child or children will live with (days of the week, time of pick-up and drop-off) by day, including after-school time and weekends,

  • Education,

  • Religious upbringing,

  • Non-emergency health care,

  • Day-to-day decision making,

  • How major decision are made,

  • How disputes are resolved, including who will be involved and who will pay,

  • Vacation schedule for winter, spring, and summer vacations.

  • Holiday schedule for:

    • New Year's eve and New Year's day,

    • Easter,

    • Victoria Day,

    • Canada Day,

    • August 1st civic holiday,

    • Thanksgiving,

    • Remembrance Day,

    • Christmas eve and Christmas day (or other appropriate time depending on your culture and/or religion,

    • Religious holidays,

    • Professional development days.

  • Schedule for special occasions:

    • Mother's Day,

    • Father's Day,

    • Mother's birthday,

    • Father's birthday,

    • Paternal family days (grandparents' birthdays, etc.),

    • Maternal family days (grandparents' birthdays, etc.),

    • Children's birthdays.


Part B: Resources

Click here for a downloadable booklet/workbook that provides much more specific information and guidance.


Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta