In a recent post we talked about divorcing well, and touched on how to do that in a way that could make your children’s lives better. One of the things we talked about was creating a plan for parenting time built on mutual respect, something both parties could adhere to and could make work.
Today, we’re going to talk about how you can make it happen.
Put everything on a calendar.
A good parenting plan must be realistic. If you create a plan full of conflicts you’ll inspire conflict right off the bat. Make sure you can see your obligations, your co-parent’s obligations, and your children’s school and extracurricular schedules all in one place. A shared Google Calendar or other app-based planner might be helpful here.
You can then start building a reasonable schedule including days with each parent, pick up times and drop-off times based on a realistic picture of what both parents can reasonably achieve while meeting the children’s needs.
Terminology can make a difference.
If you’re creating a parenting plan at all you are in a situation where you either recognize the child needs both parents in his or her life or are being made to recognize it. Divorce Magazine suggests altering terminology to help alter your mindset.
For example, calling the parent the child lives with most of the time the “primary residential parent” instead of the “custodial parent” can convey respect for the other parent’s role and make it clear the other parent is a parent, not someone the kids visit, or someone who babysits.
Remember, most of the time you’ll have joint custody anyway, and it pays to recognize that fact.
Make a commitment to respect the schedule.
Arriving late or unprepared for parenting time is one of the biggest points of contention between divorced spouses. Another complaint is parents who try to change the schedule at the last minute.
Kids need a consistent schedule. And they definitely pick up on any passive-aggressive maneuvers. Furthermore, these sorts of violations of a court-approved parenting time plan can mean spending more time and money in court.
Make a commitment to respect your ex.
Do not speak ill of your ex in front of your children, and don’t pick fights. Don’t use the children to enact battles or engage in a game of “which parent do you love more?” You may not be married to your ex anymore, but you can never get away from the fact your ex is also your child’s parent.
Treat your parenting time agreement as a business arrangement. Be professional about it.
Create time to talk about co-parenting issues.
Conflicts about parenting style are going to arise, as are conflicts about school, religion, and health. You need child-free time to discuss these issues, to consult one another, and to come to an agreement. Scheduling a cup of coffee every week to touch base and placing this time into the parenting plan can be a good way to get this done.
Remember, children are perfectly capable of understanding rules can be different at different houses. Be flexible if possible.
Try to keep it balanced.
Your ex isn’t going to agree to a parenting plan where you take 90% of the time and he or she gets 10%. Or, at least, they shouldn’t. A judge certainly won’t agree to a plan like that.
If a great deal of distance is involved, outline who will pay for travel or who will provide transportation.
You don’t want to end up in a situation where your child can’t visit his or her parent because neither of you planned a plane ticket into your budget. It’s never a good idea to assume the other parent will handle it.
If you live more than 100 miles apart you need a fair, balanced way to make sure the child can get to and from the other parent’s house.
If a parenting plan isn’t working, modify it.
You may try your plan for 6-12 months only to find it doesn’t quite meet the needs of your kids. Or certain circumstances may change, bringing up new issues or eliminating old ones.
In either case you shouldn’t be afraid to seek a modification of your parenting plan as necessary.
Always consult a qualified family law attorney before agreeing to any parenting plan.
Even if you and your spouse both agree to the parenting plan it’s a good idea to get an attorney’s eyes on it before you sign anything. You will be bound by it for as long as it’s in force, and it’s easy to make mistakes which could cause major problems down the line.
Are you in the middle of a divorce? Do you have children, and a need to draft a reasonable parenting plan? Contact Sadek & Cooper today to schedule your free consultation.