10 Tips for Drafting a Parenting Plan

This material is reproduced from the CEBblogTM, 10 Tips for Drafting A Parenting Plan (http://blog.ceb.com/2014/09/24/10-tips-for-drafting-a-parenting-plan/) copyright 2014 by the Regents of the University of California. Reproduced with permission of Continuing Education of the Bar – California. (For information about CEB publications, telephone toll free 1-800-CEB-3444 or visit our Web site, CEB.com).


When parents don’t agree on a child custody issue, the parenting plan is the tiebreaker. Given this power, family law attorneys need to draft parenting plans with the utmost care to make sure that uncertainty and ambiguity don’t undermine the best intentions.

A court-ordered parenting plan governs how parents will share the “care, custody and management of their child.” What goes into a proposed plan is often the result of extensive negotiations and mediation.

Parenting plan provisions must be clear, certain, and directive. The goal is that anyone who needs to review the plan, e.g., parents, judges, court personnel, school/daycare personnel, or law enforcement officials, can quickly find and understand the relevant provisions. Ambiguous language can create conflict, result in unenforceable or impractical provisions, and often requires litigation to achieve clarity.

Regardless of the specific plan provisions, follow these 10 tips for every parenting plan you draft to guide all parties towards maximum clarity—and minimal conflict:

  1. Use an outline and label sections with headings.
  2. Use the simplest possible language, never exceeding a 12th-grade vocabulary and avoiding legalese.
  3. Keep sentences short.
  4. Use the present tense.
  5. Use the terms “legal custody,” “physical custody,” and “visitation” to increase the probability of recognition and enforcement in other jurisdictions. Generally, this requirement is satisfied by stating: “The parents are awarded joint legal custody according to the following plan” or “The parents are awarded joint physical custody according to the following schedule” or similar language that brings the plan within the statutory scheme and goes on to provide the specifics.
  6. When using terms of art based on the Family Code, cite the relevant code section and, when appropriate, incorporate the language of the code section into the plan.
  7. Distinguish between duties and elective acts by using “must” (or “will”) or “may.” “Shall” creates ambiguity because it has at least eight separate meanings.
  8. Avoid provisos. The phrase “provided that” may be read as an exception, condition, addition, or limitation.
  9. Never use the passive voice; always specify who “must” or “may” do what.
  10. No one ever remembers who is the petitioner and who is the respondent once they get off the caption page. Use “Petitioner-Mother” and “Respondent-Father” (when the parents are opposite sex) or identify the parties in the first paragraph, and then refer to them consistently by name throughout the order.

For everything you need to know about drafting parenting plans, turn to CEB’sCalifornia Child Custody Litigation and Practice, chapter 4. And for analysis of key subject areas in family law, don’t miss CEB’s 2014 Family Law Conference in Anaheim on October 16-17.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Lawyers at the Library – The First Seven Months

We held our first Lawyers at the Library event on April 10, 2013 with a session on Understanding Small Claims Court. From April to October we had:

  • 10 lectures at the law library
  • 1 lecture at the Simi Valley Public Library
  • 1 lecture at the EP Foster Public Library
  • 176 attendees total
  • Speakers: 10 attorneys and 1 paralegal
  • Subjects ranging from Bankruptcy to Employment Law to Criminal Law and more



Attorney Mike Ford discusses criminal law.


Attorney Mary M. Howard discusses restraining orders.

We thank all our attendees and speakers! Below are all our fliers for the events.








Lawyers in the Library 2014 began again in 2014 with a session from attorney Lou Vigorita on Social Security and will continue with one lecture a month until October 2014. Sign up for the mailing list!


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Clerk Recorder Resources

Did you know the Ventura County Clerk Recorder has a comprehensive website featuring many of their forms and information? Click the logo below to visit their website! Forms include Fictitious Business Statements, Declaration of Homestead, Quitclaim Deeds, and more. You can also search for documents, file an online application for a marriage license,  file for a fictitious business name, and more using their Public Inquiry system.


Clerk Recorder Logo


Also, the Clerk Recorder has opened an East County office! From their announcement:

The Ventura County Clerk and Recorder East County office is office is Now Open!! This office will be open on Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. in the Thousand Oaks City Clerk’s office located at 2100 East Thousand Oaks Boulevard.  The Clerk and Recorder will issue marriage licenses, process fictitious business name filings and clerk certificates, record real property documents, and issue certified copies of birth, death and marriage records at this new location. Wedding ceremonies will continue to be performed only in the main Ventura office.

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Covered CA is live!

On October 1, 2013, the website for CoveredCA.com, the new health insurance exchange, went live. Explore all that Covered CA has to offer.



CoveredCA has brochures with basic facts on getting coverage if you are uninsured and offers the opportunity to sign up now.

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Civil Motions

We’ve had more than a few requests recently for information on various civil motions, especially motions to quash. This guide to civil motions from The California Court Association includes basic instructions on a wide variety of possible motions.

As with all information, check with your local court to make sure your motion is correct. Below is the table of contents; click the link to be taken to the PDF hosted by The California Court Association website.



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Law Library of Congress Resources

The Law Library of Congress has a large number of resources available to the public, from research help to an excellent blog, In Custodia Legis. The handout below is a useful guide to all that they do! Click on it to be taken to the In Custodia Legis blog where you can download a full sized version.


Law Library of Congress Resources

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Apps for Lawyers

Technology is changing the ways in which attorneys work–check out these helpful lists of apps for legal professionals.

Pre-Trial and Trial Apps

Trial and Litigation iPad Apps for Lawyers

The Best iPad PDF Annotation and Storage Apps

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3-D Printing and Copyright

3 D printers are being hailed as the latest innovation that just might change the world. Libraries have begun offering the use of 3D printers to their patrons; companies like Makerbot are marketing affordable 3D printers. But what are the challenges of this new technology? What does it mean for IP?

HBO recently delivered a polite C&D to Fernando Sosa, who was manufacturing an “Iron Throne” iPhone dock, modeled after the  all important piece of furniture in the HBO series Game of Thrones. In 2011, another 3D printed object was thought to be the first to be hit with a DCMA violation notice. There is no doubt that 3D printing is opening up a whole new world of creative possibility–and with it, new legal headaches.

More information:

 “It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw it Up” A 2010 whitepaper from publicknowledge.org that examined many of these issues as the possibilities of 3D printing were just beginning to be explored.

What’s the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?” A 2013 whitepaper from publicknowledge.org that raises a number of useful questions about the application of current IP law to 3D printed objects.

“Scorching the 3dp Earth” on patenting types of 3D printing technology.

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Valentine’s Day Memorandum of Understanding

Docracy, a legal document and contract site, offers this adorable Valentine’s “Memorandum of Understanding,” for those who like their love to be legally binding.



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