STM’s Parenting plan

Vaula Haavisto, Stefania Passera

A divorce is a huge change in the life of parents and children alike. But while a marriage can end, parenthood goes on. How to support parents in collaboratively planning how to take care of their children’s everyday life after divorce? How to help them in putting the children’s need first, keeping hard feelings out of the picture?
We developed the very first parenting plan in Finland, as part of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s (STM) LAPE project. A parenting plan is negotiated by the parents outside of court, with the goal to prioritize the children’s best interests and wellbeing, and reduce the need for litigation. Well-developed plans are approved by the judge with no need for the children to appear in court, sparing them a stressful and intimidating experience.
The Finnish parenting plan consists of three parts. In the first section (FI | SE), we included mediations principles to help the parents achieve the right mindset for co-parenting effectively and prioritize the child’s needs. The second section (FI | SE) consists of practical instructions to fill in the parenting plan, and a range of diverse, real-life examples of how parents agreed on these points. The third section (FI | SE) is the parenting plan to be filled. We provided facilitating questions for each key topic (e.g. living arrangements, financial responsibilities, communication,…) to help the parents in considering various factors that affect children’s wellbeing. We opted for a modular, layered approach that minimizes the load of information that parents have to process at a time, and accommodates different information needs. While some parents may want to learn the principles and mindset needed to successfully co-parent, others may just wish to get inspiration from concrete examples, while some other may just skip ahead and fill the plan and need hints and guidance in context.