A Parenting Plan is essentially a roadmap directing how children will be raised after separation or divorce.
This plan is compiled for a specific family and represents the best possible solutions to avoid future litigation and to ensure the optimal participation of both parents and their minor child/children. It is very possible to draft your own Parenting Plan (DIY-options) with the guidance and help of a competent organization. If things are volatile and explosive, which very often happens, it might be a better option to opt for an assisted or mediated process. A mediated process guides the development of the plan to address the ever-changing needs of the minor child/children involved, while taking into account the inputs made by the child/children given their age, maturity and stage of development. This is done with the help of a neutral third party, such as a social worker, psychologist or family lawyer, acting as impartial mediator.
In essence, a Parenting Plan refers to a written agreement and legally constituted document between parents, whether biological or adoptive, born out of marriage or any other relationship. It sets out each party’s parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the minor child/children. This is a detailed document and makes provision for numerous factors relating to the upbringing of the minor child/children, including where the child will primarily reside, and contact between the child and a parent or any other person, the child’s schooling, the child’s religious upbringing as well as his or her financial needs.
The plan should always be in the best interest to the child or children. The Parenting Plan contains the negotiated decisions of both parents regarding the upbringing of their children in respect of the following:
- The most important ethical values and norms to guide both parents’ actions while bringing up the children
- What the financial responsibilities of each parent include
- How access will be granted to parents as well as third parties (i.e. grandparents, new relationships ect)
- Where children will reside primarily, including exceptions made for major holidays, birthdays and any other special events
- How medical care such medical aid coverage, medical consent and medication will be regulated
- How disciplinary issues will be enforced as a shared responsibility
- How disagreements about aspects in the Parenting Plan will be managed
- What names that the child/ren will be called, including nicknames
- How religious affiliation, attendance and religious ceremonies will be conducted
- How the schooling of children will be managed, including language, type of schools as well as extramural activities
- Any other specified aspect of the child/ children’s rearing that has to be considered
As you have realized by now, sometimes it is necessary to get some professionals on board and on your side to guide you through the whole process. Your Parenting Plan should be suited for your individual needs and you do not what to leave anything to chance and leave something out that is essential and needed. Practice has taught us to do it right the first time in order to avoid possible future conflict between the parties.
To sum up:
The primary purpose of a Parenting Plan is to reflect the interests and needs of the child. A Parenting Plan can also help to reduce conflict between parents by setting out clear guidelines and expectations to minimize conflict in an already volatile situation. It purposefully leads parents through an emotionally charged timeframe where communication may have completely deteriorated whist safeguarding children from being exposed to bickering and quarrelling.
In terms of the South African Law, sections 33 and 34 of the Children’s Act make provision for Parenting Plans. Many parents, legal practitioners, social workers, psychologists, social services, professional and other suitably qualified persons or organizations are now faced with the task of acting in accordance with sections 33 and 34 of the Act.