Things to include in a parenting plan for a toddler?
May 17, 2016 12:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for ideas of things to include in a parenting plan for a 2-year-old beyond the basics of custody, how to share holidays, etc.

I've read lots of examples online but was curious if people had other things beyond the usual topics that would be helpful to include. I'm hoping that having a very detailed agreement will help reduce conflict and also minimize the amount of discussion and negotiation needed. I realize every situation is different, but hope to capitalize on other people's experience; like, "I wish we'd decided who needed to take care of haircuts!"

Basics of situation: shared custody, living in the same community, one child, one parent has a new partner, a draft parenting plan is underway.

Limitation: mediation isn't available locally.

The plan will be reviewed by our lawyers so no legal advice needed- YANML etc.

Thanks for your thoughts!
posted by bighappyhairydog to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Haircuts. Religion and its place in the home. Sex education. Education in general. Dietary restrictions.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:25 PM on May 17, 2016

Discipline methods.
posted by VioletU at 12:33 PM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

After food clothing and shelter, socialization is high on a two-year-old's agenda. If not in day care, he or she should have friends and play dates. There should be agreed strategies for handling tantrums, and potty training. Also screen time.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:33 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Access to child for people someone is dating. Access to child in an emergency (funeral for family, etc.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:35 PM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Any body modification (haircuts, earrings, etc.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sports/Lessons - who decides? who pays?
Education - who attends conferences? who decides where he goes? Who pays? is college going to be 50/50 responsibility, or the kids?

I'm not sure how to word this easily - but what about birthday parties or other events that are outside the schedule? For instance, our daughter likes to invite a relative of hers to all her birthday parties and also for sleepovers and on family trips. If this coincides with the bio-parent in my family that's fine. If it doesn't, I'm always at a loss, because I notify my family member who talks to the other bio-parent, and they get in a big fight. If I contact other bio-parent because it is that parent's parenting time, my family member gets LIVID. The kid gets lost in the fight. It seems to me that the parent with custody on the day of the event should be the one who decides and the person who is inviting the child should deal with that parent just like they would deal with any parent of any child they were inviting, but man, this has caused ALL THE STRESS for the poor kids, mine included.

Preferred doctors, hospitals, etc., and process for notifying other parent regarding same.

My daycare and school requires a list of people who can pick the kids up. Do you want a list of yes people or a list of no people based on how that might look? What about access by other family members generally?

If you can agree on things like screen time and whatever that's great. BUT if you can't, then you both need to help the kid understand that the rules of the house are the rules of the house. Better to agree, but at least don't undermine each other.

What stuff is going to travel back and forth with the kid? If one parent has most of the stuff and most of the custody, then does the kid show up with all the necessities? or is one pair of shoes fine? Separate stuff at both houses or things getting moved back and forth?
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:40 PM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Other people have offered great suggestions. Just a few things that occur to me:

Who makes medical decisions. Who makes schooling decisions. How school contacts parents (send two copies? Send one and rely on that parent to share?) and how homework is dealt with.

Who stays home with child when child is sick. What constitutes "sick enough to stay home" (yes, I know this seems obvious. It isn't to many people, though).

Whether child is allowed to sleep in parent's bed.
posted by guster4lovers at 12:44 PM on May 17, 2016

Also, another thing I'm not sure can be codified: what do you do when the kid expresses the strong preference to do something that isn't the thing in the agreement? Like, my three year old last night did NOT want me to put her to bed. Like, she slammed the door and told me she didn't like me anymore and wanted daddy. Now, daddy and I are married so that was no problem (mostly) but there needs to be pretty strong agreement that you early on set the precedent that that's just too bad, there's no changes.

Right of first refusal on nights where someone needs a babysitter; but also, making sure there's no obligation to accommodate each other's schedule.

I've seen people require all communication between parents via text or email whenever possible. I've also seen them require kids to have access to a cell phone from a really early age to be able to reach the other parent, and for kids that aren't old enough to do that for parents to arrange one phone call a night or whatever.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:45 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not sure about that age because we came up with ours when the kids were around 12 or so, but one thing that came up was things like getting invited to a bar mitzvah on the weekend one of us had the kids. Who paid for the gift, who dropped off and picked up, etc. Same thing with things like AYSO soccer.
posted by AugustWest at 12:54 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Where expensive toys like bicycles are kept. Do they go from house to house as the child desires, or stay at the house of the parent who paid for it?
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:55 PM on May 17, 2016

While you both live in the same community now, what happens if or when one of you relocates? The plan may already state that visitation will need to be reconfigured if one of you moves more than 50 miles away, but when my ex moved out of state to be with his girlfriend, travel expenses related to his visitation rights became a contentious issue.

As your child gets older, there may be visitation conflicts for your child. For example, what happens if your child is invited to a birthday party or a sleep-over that coincides with the weekend with the non-custodial parent. The NC parent may feel such activities cut into "his/her" time with the child.
posted by kbar1 at 12:58 PM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

If one parent becomes so ill they need the other parent to step in (ie: could be "in the hospital" but could also be, say, norovirus) how does that affect the other parent's "time" -- ie: is it just "extra" time with parent 2 or does parent 1 get to "make up" the time somehow.
posted by anastasiav at 1:06 PM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

When I was doing my domestic relations clinical thing in law school, the standard for agreements written when children were very small was to build in a re-negotiation date because everything will be different for a child in school than a child not in school and it will get even more different as the child gets older and more independent. (at the time, the thinking was small children need frequent and not necessarily extended time with the non residential parent, but as the child ages, her own schedule begins to take priority--school, extra curricular, friends and less frequent, but more extended time with the non residential parent might be more appropriate)

Some divorces are contentious enough that parents need to specify when/how the former-in-laws can contact the child; i.e. Dad's mother will only call child while child is at Dad's house, except on child's birthday or [holiday]. Some divorces are not that contentious, but it can be helpful for everyone in negotiating new relationship boundaries to address that in the parenting agreement. You can do it by specifying that one weekend a year is grandma's and it does not count against either parent's time, or by specifying that each parent is solely responsible for facilitating relationships within their family, or that each parent will accept phone calls/letters from either set of grandparent or whatever works for you. As noted above, this can include planning for things like "when Non Residential Parent's sister wants to take child to the beach when it's not Non Residential Parent's weekend but NRP does not want to give up the time"; family weddings; family funerals and the like.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:28 PM on May 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

School and childcare-- what type (public, private, religious, particular educational track/method)-- who decides and who pays. Lay out the process and a timeline for negotiating and deciding if you both get input. Consider things like "Parent A must provide three options for Parent B to consider" and "Parent B must notify Parent A of their preference and proposed method of payment/contribution in writing within 2 weeks".

Consider specifying how contributions for expenses will be handled--again, consider timeframe and payment method (cash? checks? will receipts be provided? Square? PayPal? what if your co-parent is slow depositing checks?).

Consider laying out a timeframe for responding to communications-- if your co-parent is (or may become) reluctant to respond, that will impact your ability to plan your life.
posted by Kpele at 1:31 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Medications and whose insurance the kid will be covered under - who pays the copays - what discussions need to be had if psychiatric medication is recommended by the pediatricians - how information from the pediatricians is shared between the parents.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 1:39 PM on May 17, 2016

I'm hoping that having a very detailed agreement will help reduce conflict and also minimize the amount of discussion and negotiation needed.

Actually it will do just the opposite. Think about what things you think should go in, and then decide, "If Pat doesn't get a haircut when with the Ex, will the world end? Is it that big a deal to take the kiddo to Supercuts if need be?" Or conversely, "So the Ex took Pat for a haircut, eh, I'd rather have it done at La Salon, but toddlers don't really care about hair and it's no biggie."

What kinds of conflicts do you have now? What is your Ex like to deal with? What are you afraid of?

I think that parenting is a Venn Diagram. 75% of parenting can be outside of the overlap, with only the 25% most important things in the middle where you both need to agree. Aim for that. You may want to revisit things as you get into a groove. I'm hoping the intent isn't so much to nail each other down forever, but to come to an agreement about how your child will be parented now, and as he grows.

Parents do things differently and that's okay. You don't have to agree on a predetermined dinner time, so long as kiddo is fed and isn't allowed to get hangry. Whether or not you're raising the kid Kosher, Vegan, Gluten-Free or whatever...probably should be in the agreement.

I think it would be nice, since you both live in the same area, if you could do holidays and birthday together. It's less stress for your child and it lets the world know that you can put aside your differences so that your kid can have a day that about him, not you two. But if not, a holiday schedule that everyone can live with should be added.

I'd also recommend being flexible. Your Ex may have a business trip and it would be more convenient to shift days. Be a mench, the better you are to your Ex, the better it is for your kid.

Have an annual day when you review the plan and make changes, this will make sense if your child gets into Traveling Baseball or Ballet or Dressage.

It seems that you're being pretty civil and that's great, whenever something is aggravating you about custody, ask yourself, "In the grand scheme of things, is this a hill I want to die on?" Sometimes it will be, but I'd say 90% of the time, it's easier just to go with whatever.

It's already hard being a parent, anything that you can do for yourself is only beneficial to your child.

Even if your Ex is being a jerk, keep the lines of communication open with regards to your child Your child will know that YOU were someone who was taking care of him, even when other people were running their own agendas.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:01 PM on May 17, 2016 [7 favorites]

An interesting thing that came up for me when I was drafting a nanny contract was social media. This may or may not be an issue for you, but something to think about. Who is allowed to post videos and photos of your kid and to what audience? Can your ex start a youtube channel featuring your kid? Can they have photos set to "public" on Facebook?
posted by LKWorking at 2:25 PM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Who gets to claim the kid as a tax dependent.
posted by teremala at 3:01 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

What kinds of conflicts do you have now? What is your Ex like to deal with? What are you afraid of?

These are really good questions. Most of the conflict stems from a lack of trust; e.g. we'd agreed to talk before introducing a new partner to our child, but I found out about ex's new partner when my babysitter saw them together, at which point they had been spending time with our child for maybe 5-6 months and were sleeping over. We had an agreement to notify one another about travel with our child, but I found out through other means that ex had been taking kid out of town regularly without letting me know (nothing big, usually weekend trips ~2 hrs away but outside of cell service). Ex said there was no need to follow that agreement because it wasn't legally binding, so I guess I hope that making something legally binding will mean the things we agree to are actually followed.

I'm tired of the smallest things turning into a huge debate. I'm getting better at disengaging, but it would be so much easier to have things decided so we don't need to talk things to death. It's not that I care so much about a haircut, but I don't want to have a long email exchange every time my kid needs one.

I guess at the core of it, I'm afraid of being cut out of major decisions about my child. Usually when ex and I disagree on something, ex just does it anyway and doesn't tell me. I'm not sure if a parenting plan would help with that, but at least it would be something.

Thanks to all for your suggestions. These are very useful.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 3:40 PM on May 17, 2016

Not just who pays for things but where they reside. Husband's ex had a real thing about him having his own stuff for Kid---toothbrush, bottle of vitamins etc. Over time, this has escalated to can we keep pyjamas, a spare baseball glove and so on. One time, we had a car accident on our way to drive five hours to get the kiddo and she refused to loan us her car seat when we got there in a hastily procured rental because he is Supposed to Have His Own Stuff. It may simplify things to specify this sort of thing, but I implore you both to agree, at least informally, not to be petty about these things. Spell it out, but then be reasonable.

Another issue that has been contentious for us has been pick-up and drop-off times. When she brings him, she waltzes over at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. When she picks him up, she's here by noon so he can 'get ready for school tomorrow.' Doesn't give us much of a weekend! In hindsight, I wish we had specified this when we had the chance.

You may also want to build in some extras as the kid gets older. For example, our summer visits go up by one day each year as the kiddo gets older. So, nine days this year, ten days next year etc. Also, now that he is in school, we have negotiated things like getting Husband on the weekly emails the teacher sends out and inviting him to holiday concerts and so on (which, if you are comfortable attending together, is great but if you are not, please make arrangements for that).

Also, the teacher will totally make a second set of Christmas crafts or whatever with the kiddo but they generally need to be told. My husband was very thankful when his son showed up for the holiday visit and had a school-made craft for him.
posted by JoannaC at 3:42 PM on May 17, 2016

What's the Plan B? If the custodial parent can't care for the child and the other parent can't care for the child (think, one parent out of town for work, another suddenly ill), who will care for the child? I hope this doesn't happen but if it does happen, it's a huge help to already know and have agreed on a Plan B.

Also, do you have your ex's partner's contact info and does this person have yours? I would want that shared contact info available to all when it came to my kid.

Perhaps a regular, informal monthly call to see how the kidlet is doing from your differing perspectives? But that's probably too much to hope for. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:07 PM on May 17, 2016

Based on your update your Ex isn't going to abide by it anyway, why tie yourself in a knot? Do you trust them? Why not?

So your Ex takes your kid out of town? So what? So your Ex introduced their new SO to the kid? Nothing bad happened.

It seems like these are BFDs, but if your Ex is genuinely a good parent, and just does different things than you do, let it go. Not for them, for you.

What's the deal with the haircuts? If your Ex doesn't take care of it, do it yourself. None of these things are big decisions. These are small details. And as much as it annoys you, you don't have that kind of control. Don't have long email exchanges about it, just take care of it.

How your Ex does things at their house is their business, and vice-versa.

You don't trust your Ex as far as you could throw them, and that's not healthy. Your Ex isn't going to place your child in danger. If you start trusting your Ex and stop making BFDs out of small things (no adult wants to have more than 4 words about a toddler's haircut,) that your Ex will willingly include you in decisions. Even the small ones.

Ease off the gas on this. Really distill the BIG things that truly matter to you about joint custody, and let your Ex parent your child the way that they're comfortable. You do the same.

I promise, it will be fine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:32 PM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Based on your update your Ex isn't going to abide by it anyway, why tie yourself in a knot? Do you trust them? Why not?

One of the times ex took kid out of town, kid was quite sick with a high fever and the doctor warned that kid could get sicker really quickly and we had to be prepared to go to emerg. Despite this, ex took kid camping 2 hours away and had partner watch kid while teaching a course. I found out when I called to see how kid was doing and discovered they were out of cell range.

One of the things we disagree about is whether kid should participate in a high-risk activity that the pediatric association says kids under 6 should not do because of risk of serious injury/fatality. I want to wait until kid is 6 and ex thinks now is fine. So part of it is risk tolerance.

Not sure if these examples are bigger deals, but regardless, it sounds like a parenting plan isn't the solution. I thought sorting out the details would make things easier, but it sounds like letting go of the details is a better approach, especially given that it probably won't be followed anyway. Thanks for the perspective.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 5:29 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

If SO is hanging around, make friends with that person. Explain your concerns and see if you can get them on board.

For example: Hey Partner, Little Sluggo here has a really high fever and the doctor said to be prepared to go to the ER if Foo, Bah and Blah. Just want to let you both know. Don't plan on going into the wilderness!

I agree that's pretty messed up. Plus who wants to schlep a sick toddler anywhere?

As for the risky stuff, again, talk to Partner about it. "Sluggo's pediatrician suggested we wait until Sluggo was 6 until we approved of mountain climbing. What do you think?"

You'll have an ally I suspect. But you know if that would fly or not.

Good luck, it's really hard if your Ex is kind of an ass, and based on that last update, I suspect this is the case.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:32 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

OP, I've heard that a parenting coordinator, mediator or team of coaches can help with these situations. If one partner is abusive or really not being aware of standards, a neutral party can help you resolve the conflict.

The situation with the camping sounds very scary.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 7:34 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dear heaven, pay attention to the commenters above who speak of body modifications, including such trivial things as haircuts. It's not at the top of your worry list, of course, but don't exclude it.

My 6 year old nephew has arrived at the last few major holidays with a kool-aid dyed mohawk, because his mother thinks it will make us all clutch our pearls. We don't of course, but it is a bummer for my darling nephew, because the kool-aid runs into his eyes when he sweats and mohawks are really hard to maintain. The poor kid ends up putting on a hat, and all of his cousins pretend not to notice anything.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 11:59 PM on May 17, 2016

Also, I don't know how you codify this, but just to give you a heads up when dealing with a vindictive ex-spouse/co-parent: my nephew has shown up at family gatherings without appropriate clothing (e.g., no winter coat, no effing shoes at all, no bathing suit, etc.). We have given him expensive shoes because our kids had extras, his dad buys him things - they are never seen again.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 12:02 AM on May 18, 2016

Single parent of three here.

You need to know that a parenting plan isn't going to do anything.


Ultimately, it's a toothless piece of paper that you will spend $$$$ on but when all is said and done, the only genuine recourse you have if your ex breaks the contract is you can sue them for contempt. That's it. And a judge can cite them, try to make them pay a fine, but it'll cost you money, time from work and your energy.

Your ex can make a ton of shitty parenting decisions (ice cream for every meal, staying up all night playing video games, having parties at his house all night, taking the kid hiking for 20 miles, piercings, 7 puppies, skateboarding without pads and bicycling without a helmet) and you can't do anything about this. And that kind of sucks but that's the reality. If your ex decides to make stupid parenting decisions, he's not going to first check the parenting plan, see that he can't get the kid a Mohawk, then stop himself.

What you CAN do in this agreement is ensure you can make all sorts of decisions WITHOUT their permission. School, doctor, dentist, orthodontist, therapist, etc. You want to be able to make decisions without consulting them. because if your ex decides they have the cash to burn and they're feeling punitive, they may take YOU to court for contempt because you didn't ask for permission before getting your beaver-toothed child braces (I know this from experience as does my No-Longer-Beaver-Toothed-Teen). So you want permission to make these decisions alone.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:11 AM on May 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

yes I said yes I will Yes nailed it.

I am not divorced, but having watched several friends go through it with a vindictive ex-spouse, you have to just throw up your hands in terms of ANYTHING that happens in your ex-spouse's time (short of abuse that could give you full custody). I have a friend whose ex rang her doorbell for 2 hours while she and her 6yo daughter cowered inside (his didn't agree with the judge-approved custody arrangement), and because she didn't actually go out there and let him physically intimidate her, she couldn't get a restraining order.

Another friend's ex-spouse insisted that they send their kid to super-expensive-summer camp rather than free camp that kid got a scholarship for. Friend relented, and then ex-spouse didn't have the money for his half of expensive camp.

There is nothing you can do to control or influence this guy. And I'm sorry.

My advice (echoing some advice above) is to try to make his new partner your ally. But super nice to her, flatter her, tell her that you feel so lucky that she is going to watch out for DC while DC is with your ex. And text them both with info about what the doctor says, etc. He has the desire to piss you off, but she might be more reasonable.
posted by tk at 7:48 AM on May 18, 2016

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