Parenting Plans and Divorce: Initial Considerations

When constructing a parenting plan, the goal is that both parents maintain a meaningful relationship with the children.  When parents live in separate homes, a special challenge is presented in preserving the relationship between children and both parents after divorce or separation.  When parents put aside their conflict and work together to find a parenting schedule that works for the whole family, whether it is a 50/50, 60/40 or some other type of plan, everyone usually benefits from the sharing of care. 

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWritten parenting plans provide children and parents with predictability and consistency.  A good plan helps prevent future conflict.  In deciding on a plan, many parents have the following goals:

  • The children can continue to have a close, secure relationship with both parents.
  • Both parents are able to be consistently involved in their children’s lives.
  • Making sure the children feel loved and cared for by both parents.
  • Recognizing the special relationship that each parent has with the child.
  • The parents share the responsibility of caring for the children in a way that works for each parent and the children.

There are different types of shared custody and parenting plans.  There are also a number of factors that go into deciding whether a particular schedule is the right fit for the family.   The following is a brief guide for working on a parenting plan:father-and-daughter-1440499

  1. Establish priorities: Each mom and dad needs to think about how they can best continue to parent the children in light of the needs of each child and each parent’s work schedule.  Many couples invent their own ways of sharing parenthood so that they can accommodate their children’s needs, their work schedule and the economic needs of the family.
  1. Consider factors that affect the plan, including:
  • The age and maturity level of each child
  • The child’s attachment to each parent
  • Whether the child has special needs
  • How the child’s schedule and needs will be met
  • The child’s relationships with siblings and friends
  • The distance between the parents’ homes
  • The parents’ work schedules
  • The current and future childcare arrangements
  • How and when each parent will transition to his or her respective time with the child
  • How the child will have regular contact with each parent by phone, email, Skype, Face Time, or other methods
  • How rules and discipline will be handled in each household
  • How the parents will communicate with each other about the children
  • How the children’s expenses will be met
  1. Stay open-minded and flexible: There are many different options for a shared custody plan.  Review each idea with an open mind and with a view towards whether the plan is practical for the family.  Sometimes the best solutions are the ones that are created by the parents by revising standard options or by making up entirely new and different plans.
  1. mother-and-son-1428783Be aware of your own anger and fear: Working on a parenting plan is understandably a very emotional time.   Continue to focus on the children and be aware that strong feelings and emotions may cloud your judgment about what is best for the children.  Taking the time to think about various options away from the settlement table may be helpful.
  1. Creating an effective plan: Having a written, detailed plan that reflects the parenting schedule and how decisions will be made about the children’s health, education and welfare helps to set a course for unified, effective parenting. When done correctly, it should help to reduce conflict. An experienced family law attorney can be helpful in making informed decisions about relevant law, types of parenting plans and preparing the written agreement.

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