If you’re going through a divorce and there are children involved, you should take every step to prioritise their wellbeing during what is naturally a disruptive and difficult time. Children deserve support from both parents, particularly when there is so much change unravelling around them. The more you can do to make this transition clear and straightforward, the better. One thing you can do to facilitate a smoother transition is drawing up a Shared Parenting Agreement.
In this guide, we explain what a Shared Parenting Agreement looks like, how to create one that works for your family, and if they are legally binding.
What is a Shared Parenting Agreement?
A Shared Parenting Agreement is one in which divorced or separated parents can plan out childcare arrangements and document them in writing. This type of plan is ideal for those who want to avoid getting the Court involved and can easily agree on the daily arrangements for their children.
Why you should consider making a Shared Parenting Agreement
A Shared Parenting Plan is essential for the benefit of your children, their living situation and their daily routines. As parents, if you can show unity and agree on a clear Shared Parenting Agreement, it will help to ease the transition for everybody involved. This also encourages both parents to share parental roles and responsibilities as fairly as possible, even when living in separate properties.
This level of structure, care and attention will help parents to continue developing strong relationships with their children. Plus, it can minimise the impact on the children’s emotional health and behaviour – when parents are fighting during separation, emotional and behavioural problems in children are more common.
Finally, the plan can offer clear evidence of the agreed arrangements, which helps if any disagreements crop up later on.
What should you include in a Shared Parenting Agreement?
When making a Shared Parenting Plan, consider adding the factors we’ve listed below.
The Basic Principles
The basic principles help establish the more general details, such as both parties recognising each other as having a parental role in the children’s upbringing and what you hope future parenting agreements will include. You may also focus on the emotional and physical well-being of your child or children in this section.
The Annual Calendar
You need to agree on where your children will stay and when. This includes school holidays – so Bank Holiday weekends, half term breaks, Christmas holidays, Easter holidays, and Summer. You may also need to consider whether you can take your child abroad during the holidays, and how this will impact your childcare arrangements. You will also need to think about special events for your family. This will typically include birthdays, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, and Christmas Day, along with any other important religious celebrations in your family.
Contact time with other relatives
Mum and Dad aren’t the only important figures in children’s lives. You also need to factor grandparents and other close relatives into the arrangement and plan for when the children will spend time with them.
If you have parental responsibility, you’ll have a say in which school you’d like your child to attend. Aside from this, the plan should arrange who will go to school events, such as parents’ evenings and end-of-term plays. Typically, the school will be more than happy to communicate with both parents via email.
Agreeing on a financial settlement in divorce is one of the most important parts of the process. This will involve confirming financial responsibilities and contributions towards your children to ensure their wellbeing. For example, child maintenance payments and any school-related expenses. If you and your ex-partner have already agreed on the financial settlement, you should easily be able to include this information on your Shared Parenting Agreement.
Finally, you need to agree on the communication method you will have about the children as you move forwards separately. You could consider arranging monthly or annual meetings with your ex-partner about whether you feel like the plan should stay the same or needs adjusting. You could make this approach work in person or over the phone.
How to Make a Shared Parenting Plan
You can construct a Shared Parenting Agreement by yourselves or with a solicitor if you and your ex-partner can’t agree on certain aspects. A mediation process may also help resolve matters, with a neutral third party assisting you both in reaching an agreement which works for both sides. This can help you make the decisions which are best for your children.
If your children are getting older, listening to their wants and needs is critical rather than just considering your own. After all, your children are the centre of your lives, and not taking them seriously can affect their emotional well-being. Listening to your children can help offer them reassurance and reduce their anxieties in this challenging process. You also may consider inviting the children to participate in mediation, which could further help you make any decisions you may be struggling with.
Try using this official resource to construct your own Shared Parenting Agreement. When you complete the document, both you and your ex-partner must sign it and obtain a copy, which can then be used as a future reference.
Is a Parenting Plan legally binding?
Unfortunately, a Shared Parenting Agreement isn’t automatically legally binding. You should consider hiring a solicitor to draw up a Consent Order to make your document legally binding. This needs to be signed by both you and your ex-partner to confirm your agreement to the terms.
Following this, your solicitor can help you complete a C100 court form. This form, along with the Consent Order, needs to be sent to Court and will require a court fee.
Finally, the judge must approve the Consent Order to bind the plan legally. To do this, they must feel that this arrangement is in the children’s best interests.
Do I need a solicitor to make a Shared Parenting Agreement?
You do not necessarily need a solicitor to create your own Shared Parenting Agreement. However, if you want to ensure the agreement is legally binding, it is best to get a specialist family law solicitor on board. You may also want to seek the advice of a solicitor if you are struggling to agree with your ex-partner or if you want extra assurance that every factor has been covered.
If you would like to discuss your Shared Parenting Agreement with Newtons Solicitors, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We understand how challenging separation and divorce is both emotionally and logistically, especially when children are involved. Our family team has a wealth of experience to guide you in the right direction and help you make the best decisions for you and your children.