Creating A Co-parenting Plan: Tips For Unmarried Parents

Imagine a situation where you and your co-parent aren’t on the same page about important decisions for your child. It can lead to disagreements, chaos, and emotional distress for everyone involved. An effective co-parenting plan can help prevent these issues.

The National Center for Health Statistics in the US reports that about four to five million people marry each year. Sadly, about 42–53% of these marriages end in divorce, meaning many co-parenting arrangements are on the horizon. So you’re not alone.

Creating a co-parenting plan as an unmarried parent helps you navigate the unpredictable journey of parenthood. It provides a sense of direction, minimizes conflicts, and, above all, ensures consistency for your child.

A co-parenting plan isn’t just a document; it’s a tool for better communication. It helps you and your co-parent align your parenting strategies and expectations, reducing potential misunderstandings and disputes. Ultimately, it’s all about providing your child with a stable, nurturing environment.

Below are five practical tips to help you create one.

  1. Seek professional legal help

While creating a co-parenting plan can seem overwhelming, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Seeking professional legal help can make a world of difference. It provides the assurance of having an expert guide you through the process. A lawyer operating in your locality may significantly help as they understand your jurisdiction’s laws in and out. For instance, someone versed in Colorado custody laws should be your go-to option if you live in the area.

Why should you consider legal help? Well, a legal expert understands the intricacies of family law. They can advise you on your rights and responsibilities, ensuring your plan meets legal requirements. It not only helps you avoid potential legal pitfalls but also ensures that your plan is fair and balanced.

Additionally, a legal professional can provide objective input, helping manage sensitive situations that could otherwise escalate into conflict. They can also ensure that your plan is enforceable, providing security for both parties.

  1. Prioritize the child’s best interest

When creating your co-parenting plan, your child’s best interest should be your top priority. It’s about putting your child’s needs, welfare, and happiness above your interests or convenience.

Consider your child’s age, school schedule, extracurricular activities, and overall mental health. For instance, if your child is in grade school, consider how splitting time between two homes may impact their schoolwork and social life. You’ll need to find a balance that minimizes disruption while ensuring that both you and the other parent get meaningful time with the child.

You may also want to consider typical parental worries cutting across many families. A Pew Research Center survey found that mental health is a top worry for parents. About 40% fear their child might struggle with depression or anxiety. Being bullied is a concern for 35% of parents. They also worry about physical threats, drug and alcohol dangers, teen pregnancy, and legal troubles. Your co-parenting arrangement should ensure your kid is safeguarded from these ills.

Remember, a co-parenting plan isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It should be tailored to suit your child’s unique needs and circumstances. Flexibility is key. As your child grows and their needs change, you’ll likely need to adjust the plan accordingly. After all, a successful co-parenting plan revolves around your child’s evolving world.

  1. Set clear and consistent communication guidelines

As you embark on your co-parenting journey, remember this: clear, consistent communication is your lifeline. It helps you and your co-parent stay on the same page and avoid misunderstandings. More importantly, it fosters a healthier environment for your child.

Try setting regular meetings, preferably in a neutral location. During these meetups, discuss matters related to your child—school performance, health issues, behavioral changes, and more. Remember, these aren’t sessions for personal arguments. Keep the focus on your child.

Additionally, consider written communication or co-parenting apps. They provide a record of your interactions, which can help prevent disputes later on. Always keep your messages respectful and concise. Avoid discussing sensitive issues in front of your child, as this could make them uncomfortable. Co-parenting isn’t always smooth sailing, but you can weather the storm together with clear communication guidelines.

  1. Specify decision-making responsibilities

In the world of co-parenting, decision-making can become a tricky terrain. Who decides on your child’s schooling, healthcare, or other major life events? Clearly defining these responsibilities in your co-parenting plan is crucial.

Firstly, determine who will make decisions in crucial areas like education and healthcare. This doesn’t mean one parent holds all the power. Instead, it’s about defining areas of responsibility to prevent confusion or disputes down the line. For example, one parent could handle decisions about school and extracurricular activities, while the other could manage healthcare decisions.

However, remember that effective co-parenting involves collaboration. Even if one parent is assigned a particular decision-making responsibility, both parents should discuss significant decisions. Respect for each other’s parental rights is vital.

When you collaborate and respect each other’s roles, you model a healthy relationship for your child—one based on mutual respect and teamwork.

Steer clear from conflicts at all costs. Parent fights can hurt kids’ happiness and how they act socially. A study examined how often parents fight and how this links to issues with kids’ friends and being helpful.

The study found that when parents fight more, they show less warmth and more negative talk. This leads to kids having more peer problems and decreased prosocial behavior.


Creating an effective co-parenting plan is a step toward providing your child with a stable, nurturing environment. This plan is your roadmap, guiding you through the challenges of shared parenting.

Above all, stay positive. Co-parenting can be complex, but with the right plan and mindset, it can also be an opportunity to model healthy relationships and mutual respect for your child. Seek additional resources, join support groups, and lean on your community. You can turn co-parenting challenges into victories with the right tools and support.