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Report No. 257

H. Parenting Plan

5.9 A number of jurisdictions require divorcing parents (either jointly or individually) to submit a shared parenting plan to the court. The plan must address major areas of decision making, including: the child's education; the child's health care; religious upbringing; procedures for resolving disputes between the parties with respect to child-raising decisions and duties; and the periods of time during which each party will have the child reside or visit with him, including holidays and vacations, or the procedure by which such periods of time shall be determined.138

Some jurisdictions provide additional guidance regarding communication (between parents and between the child and the non-custodial parent); transportation to and from the other parent's residence; what to do if a parent wishes to relocate; how to change scheduled parenting time; and exchanging information about the child.139 The parenting plan itself is not a legal document; it must be approved by a court to have legal effect.140

138 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, § 31; Wash. Rev. Code § 26.09.184.

139 See Domestic Relations Committee, Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (2013), § 1, available at

140 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, § 31 ("At the trial on the merits, the court shall consider the shared custody implementation plans submitted by the parties. The court may issue a shared legal and physical custody order and, in conjunction therewith, may accept the shared custody implementation plan submitted by either party or by the parties jointly or may issue a plan modifying the plan or plans submitted by the parties. The court may also reject the plan and issue a sole legal and physical custody award to either parent."); Wash. Rev. Code § 26.09.187.

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