Required Elements in a NY Parenting Plan

Most divorces never end up before a judge. The former couple, with the guidance of their attorneys, hash out the terms. If they have kids, the divorce settlement must include a parenting plan that reflects the best interests of the children.

The agreement must identify which parent has legal or physical custody. The details of a visitation schedule, including how holidays will be addressed, are also required elements.

Legal vs Physical Custody

Physical custody determines where the children will live and who will serve as the primary caretaker. The parenting plan will establish whether the parents will have joint custody (the child lives part of the time with each parent) or sole custody (the child lives only with one parent). The plan must explain when the child will live with each parent.

Numerous circumstances can lead to a sole custody decision, many of which have nothing to do with the fitness of a parent. If one parent must travel weekly for work or if one parent has a stronger support system are two situations where the former couple may choose to give one parent sole physical custody.

Legal custody identifies which parent(s) has the authority to make decisions for the child. Like physical custody, only one parent might be given legal custody (sole legal custody) or that right and responsibility are shared (joint legal custody). When parents share legal custody, the parenting plan must outline how future disagreements will be resolved.


When one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent is typically given visitation (also called parenting time). New York believes in most cases a child is best served by spending significant time with each parent.

The non-custodial parent is only denied visitation if maintaining the relationship would harm the child’s health or well-being. In some of these extreme cases, supervised visitation might be possible.

Parenting Plan Is Detailed

The basic designations listed above are just the beginning. Before a judge signs off on the plan, they will evaluate the nuts and bolts of how the schedule will be carried out.

Specific details in the parenting plan should include the following:

  • Where the child will live on weekdays
  • Where the child will live on weekends
  • Whether the summer schedule will differ from the standard
  • Which parent will have the child for specific holidays
  • How parents will coordinate winter break, fall break, and other school holidays
  • Whether each parent will have annual vacation time with the child
  • Any alternate care (grandparents, godparents, etc.)
  • How parents will manage temporary changes as well as makeup and missed parenting time
  • Which parent(s) is given the authority to make various decisions such as education, non-emergency healthcare, extracurricular activities, religious training, etc.
  • Vicinity in a parent can relocate without prior permission of the other parent
  • Where and when parents will exchange the children
  • How parents will share information with each other about their children (physical and mental health, school grades, friendships, and more)
  • If the child will keep personal belongings at each parent’s home
  • How discipline and routine will be handled by each parent
  • When a parent can introduce new partners to the children

Even comprehensive parenting plans may need to be modified in the future. The child’s needs can evolve, or significant changes can impact the parents. The original plan should also incorporate how modifications can be renegotiated.

Work with Seasoned NY Custody Attorneys

Creating an effective parenting plan can be among the more challenging aspects of a New York divorce. Guidance from a skilled family law attorney at Samuelson Hause PLLC will ensure the plan satisfies all requirements and works for everyone involved. We help our clients overcome obstacles that are keeping the divorce from moving forward.

Discuss your child custody case with us in a confidential consultation. Schedule by calling (516) 584-4685 or reaching out online.