(There are many possibilities…)
A parenting plan outlines how separated parents will continue to care and provide for their children. An effective plan is one that is unique to the family situation and contains information about the parenting time schedule and how decisions related to the children will be made. It also outlines the plan for medical and health care coverage, education and extra-curricular activities. Some parents want a more flexible plan, and some want a consistent schedule. The focus should be on the needs of each child and what is workable and practical for the family.
On the heels of his hit movie “A Star is Born,” Hollywood actor/director Bradley Cooper made headlines once again, but this time, for personal reasons – his breakup with international model Irina Shayk. Cooper and Shayk were together for about four years, and have one child – a two-year-old daughter – together. While there has been much speculation as to what went wrong between the famously private couple, one thing we know is that the couple is committed to co-parenting and was able to make arrangements to co-parent their daughter. The parents expressed a desire to avoid disruption of their daughter’s life. What that means and how it translates into a parenting plan is different in every case. The Cooper/Shayk situation is a great reminder of the importance of co-parenting, and how parenting arrangements can be tailored to fit for the individual family.
In Bradley Cooper’s case, both parents have demanding schedules that not only require long working hours, but also travel around the country (and the world). These parents decided on a flexible plan based upon their schedules. A liberal, flexible schedule may work when parents communicate and function well together. In some cases, even with a flexible plan, it is advisable to incorporate a default access schedule so that there is a clear way of proceeding if the parents are unable to agree. Some parents want more certainty about the schedule so that they can plan their week and/or holidays. Parents need to think about how any given plan will actually work for their family. That means thinking about work schedules and availability to be with the children. In some families it means including childcare providers in the plan and communications about daily events or changes. For Bradley and Irina, having a flexible parenting agreement allows them to adjust their time with their daughter as their schedules change. As part of their initial agreement, Cooper and Shayk agreed to each reside in New York City as their ‘home base’ in order for both parents to remain close to their daughter. Cooper and Shayk also plan to spend time with their daughter together as a family as well as allow for each parent’s separate parenting time.
For some families, a set schedule is preferred so that each member of the family knows what will happen each week and so that each parent is secure in knowing when he or she will spend time with the children. In mediation, we typically breakdown the week and look at options that may work. There are many options to think about. These options must be considered in relation to work schedules, proximity of the parents’ homes and the children’s school, as well as the age, maturity level and needs of each child. Children benefit from spending time with both parents. Usually parents seek a schedule that will allow them to be spontaneous and do normal, routine things with their children.
The Cooper/Shayk arrangement is reflective of an amicable agreement between parents going through a separation. Many parents are able to set aside the conflict and prioritize making a plan for effective, meaningful parenting. Parents can do this by direct negotiation, if that is possible, or by choosing a process such as mediation or collaborative law where they can make their own decisions rather than have a third party decide. Parenting agreements can still be tailored to fit the individual family situation and should be formalized in writing in order for such agreements to be enforceable. The process of putting an agreement in writing helps parents think more clearly about what will work. Parents can be very creative in tailoring a parenting plan for their family.
Most parents consider the children a priority in developing their separation agreement. A good parenting plan will allow the children to thrive in both homes. More information on parenting agreements can be found on my website.