Your Parenting Plan

A guide to making practical arrangements for your children if you live apart.

Living arrangements and time together


Making practical, workable arrangements that are good for your children.

Different arrangements suit different families

Both parents usually want to play a full role in their children's lives and this can make it difficult to agree on living arrangements.

Some parents are able to share live-in parenting time equally. In other cases, children live with one parent and spend time with the other on a regular basis, including overnight.

For practical reasons, either parent may have to make immediate day-to-day decisions about the children on their own. However, it's important you continue to take more important and longer-term decisions jointly, discuss them with your children, and ensure ongoing opportunities for children to revisit whether the plan is working for them.

The most important thing is to consider your children's needs and what arrangements will provide them with security and stability at what can be a very difficult time in their lives.

Being flexible

There will be times when plans need to change, sometimes at short notice, and so being flexible – and understanding – is essential.

You may have to try several different arrangements before things settle down into a routine that best suits everyone.

Minor ailments

It's worth remembering that looking after children when unwell is part of normal parenting. Just because a child has a cold or other non-threatening health problem doesn't have to be a reason to cancel a prior arrangement.

Keep children informed

If a planned time together has to be cancelled or postponed (for example due to illness), make sure to explain why to your children and try to arrange another time quickly. Meanwhile, do whatever you can to avoid them feeling they're being let down.

Children may also need to postpone or change arrangements to be with you because of a school activity, party or other commitment. You need to be understanding when these things happen.

Keeping in touch

Between times together, it's good to keep up contact in other ways, such as phoning or video calling at agreed times, sending texts, emails or instant messages, or chatting online. This can be particularly important if you live far apart or spend time working away.

To avoid disputes, discuss these things with your child's other parent and try to agree when and how often other kinds of contact will happen. Some flexibility will be essential.

"I know they're both really busy but I wish I could spend more time with both of them. At least now I know when I'll be with each of them. It's easier to cope now I know that."

Things to consider

  • Who will talk to your children about what they'd like to happen? How will you respond to their wishes?
  • Where will your children live?
  • How much time will they spend with each of you?
  • Will any time together include overnight stays and, if so, how often will these happen?
  • How will you spend your time together?
  • Will there be any shared time spent together with your children?
  • What rules do you need to agree on, e.g. about bedtimes, going out, internet access?
  • How will you make sure that the things they need day-to-day ( e.g. gym kit, musical instruments, medicines) are in the right place at the right time?
  • Where will the child's toys and other things be kept?
  • If an adult needs to postpone a planned time together, how will this be explained to the child and who will do it?
  • If your child needs to postpone or rearrange a time together, how will this be managed?
  • How else will children keep up contact ( e.g. phone calls, texts or online)?
  • If either of you have a new partner, how will you introduce them to your children?
  • How will you deal with any reluctance, by your child or their other parent, to be involved with a new partner?
  • How will you make childcare arrangements?
  • Will the other parent be the first option when childcare is being arranged?
  • Which other people do you agree can look after your children ( e.g. grandparents, babysitters, relatives, neighbours) and how will you review this in future?
  • Who will talk to your children about the arrangements you're proposing and explain them?

"I've got my own mobile phone now, so I can go to my room and talk to Dad whenever I want to. I can keep in touch with my Gran as well."

What we've agreed

The Parenting Plan form is attached in pdf format (688KB)

"Why do I have to see them at the same time every week? Sometimes I have other things to do with my mates but it's no use saying anything. I don't know who decided. Nobody asked me."


To request a hard copy of this publication, email

Related publications:

Back to top