Your Parenting Plan

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

First Steps

Before you start, there are some important things to think about, like whether you're both ready to try and make a Parenting Plan and what support you'll need to help get you talking and to work through the plan-making process.

Is it safe?

Before starting, ask yourself:

  • Has the other parent been violent or abusive towards you?
  • Has the other parent been neglectful or abusive towards your children?
  • Are you or your children fearful of the other parent?
  • Have they made threats of violence or tried to control you in other ways?
  • Do you have concerns about your children's safety when with the other parent, e.g. about a new partner, household visitors or other relatives, or because of risk of harm from drink or drugs?

If the answer to any of these questions is 'yes', or if you're unsure, it's vital you seek advice from one of the parent or family support agencies listed at the rear of this booklet.

It may still be possible for your child to keep up contact with their other parent, but different arrangements need to be made for this if there are any issues around safety, such as a supervised contact plan.

If you're worried about your safety or that of your child, speak to your solicitor, local Social Work Department or one of the organisations listed under " Support for Families".

Are you both ready?

If you've lived together as a family, it's usually best to get a Plan in place before you start living apart. But making one will only be possible if you can talk and listen to each other respectfully. Obviously, this can be difficult during what may well be a distressing time for everyone involved.

Even if you've never lived together, being able to communicate respectfully with each other as parents will make agreeing on a workable Parenting Plan much easier.

Family mediation and relationship counselling can help with this. Once you're able to talk more easily with each other, your family mediator may be able to help you agree a Parenting Plan for your children. However, family mediation and relationship counselling may not be appropriate if there are any concerns around safety.

Support for you

Getting help with your own feelings about the separation can be useful and may help you avoid getting upset or angry when you're with your child's other parent.

To find support, contact one of the family mediation or counselling organisations listed here. Even a brief chat on one of their helplines might help you feel more settled.

You can always work towards making a Parenting Plan later when you're in a better position.


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