How Do I Develop a Cooperative Parenting Plan?

Resolving a divorce

Creating a cooperative parenting plan is crucial for separating or divorcing parents who want to ensure the well-being of their children. A well-thought-out plan not only outlines how parents will share responsibilities but also sets the tone for a collaborative approach to raising children post-separation. Here’s a guide on how to develop a cooperative parenting plan that works for both parents and meets the children’s needs.

Step 1: Focus on the Children’s Needs

The cornerstone of any effective parenting plan is the welfare of the children involved. Start by assessing their needs, which vary by age, personality, and social circumstances. Consider their educational requirements, emotional well-being, and social life. The primary goal is to minimize the impact of the separation on the children and maintain stability in their lives.

Step 2: Open Communication

Open and honest communication is essential. Parents need to set aside their differences and focus on the goal of effective co-parenting. It’s often helpful to conduct these discussions in a neutral setting or with a mediator if direct communication is challenging. Discuss each parent’s vision for key aspects of their children’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious instruction.

Step 3: Establish a Detailed Schedule

Detail is key in a parenting plan. Clearly outline living arrangements and schedules, taking into account work schedules, school routines, and holidays. Many parents opt for alternating weeks or splitting the week into halves. Remember, the schedule should have enough flexibility to accommodate unexpected changes like sickness or family events.

Step 4: Plan for Decision Making

Decide how you will handle making major decisions that affect your children. This can include choices about schooling, health care, and extracurricular activities. Some parents agree to joint decision-making, while others may assign specific areas where one parent has more say. The method chosen should foster cooperation and prevent conflicts.

Step 5: Include Conflict Resolution Strategies

Even with the best plans, disagreements can arise. Including a method for resolving disputes in your parenting plan is essential. This could be as simple as agreeing to discuss issues directly, using email for communication, or more structured approaches like mediation. Establishing these methods upfront can prevent disputes from escalating.

Step 6: Consider Financial Responsibilities

Clearly outline who is responsible for financial aspects of parenting. This includes daily expenses, health care, education costs, and extracurricular activities. Decide how expenses will be shared and consider setting up a joint account for child-related expenses to simplify the process.

Step 7: Review and Adjust the Plan Regularly

Children grow and their needs change over time, as do the lives and circumstances of the parents. Review the parenting plan annually or as needed to make adjustments that reflect current needs and situations. Being flexible and open to changes is key to successful co-parenting.


Developing a cooperative parenting plan is a thoughtful process that requires both parents to work together for the sake of their children. By focusing on the children’s needs, maintaining open communication, and planning for potential conflicts, parents can create a stable and supportive environment for their children. Remember, the ultimate goal is to ensure that your children feel loved and supported, regardless of the changes in their family structure.

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