When you go through a divorce involving children, you must have a parenting plan. This plan details custody, visitation, decision-making powers, travel expenses, pick-up and drop-off locations, and more.
It’s easy to get caught up in your own desires when creating this plan. Parents have a genuine need to be with their children and involved in their lives. However, any good plan must, first and foremost, put the children first.
The key term in any custody decision is “the child’s best interests.” It’s difficult to balance these needs with your own.
Here are some tips to help sure your co-parenting plan meets your needs while keeping the focus on the children.
Consider Each Parent’s Needs
Both parents should communicate their needs, remaining empathetic and understanding to one another. Each parent should also consider their life circumstances.
Be actively involved in creating the parenting plan, and try your best to work as a team. Doing so shows respect for one another’s perspective on raising the child. Keep an open dialogue and listen to what the other parent needs.
Also, be aware of any resistance you encounter. Some of your ideas will be naturally shot down. This is not the same as a stubborn parent who refuses to listen or compromise. When negotiation becomes untenable, it may be time to take the matter to mediation or even family court.
Define the Goals and Priorities of Your Plan
Discuss Your Expectations
Before you begin writing down a parenting plan, you should discuss your expectations. What, exactly, do you hope to accomplish, and what does the other parent want? Remember to work with one another so those expectations can be incorporated into the plan.
Focus on Your Child’s Needs
It cannot be stressed enough: Make sure your primary focus is on your child’s best. Ask yourself, What will empower them and help them grow?
Meeting those needs may require some unexpected sacrifice. If you are truly focused on your child’s needs, those sacrifices should, however, be easy to make.
Set Realistic Boundaries
Pragmatic boundaries can help ensure that everyone feels respected, protected, and comfortable while adhering to the plan’s rules.
Develop a Detailed Schedule
Your parenting plan needs a clear, consistent schedule. It’s important to set these expectations, leaving no room for doubt or confusion.
Alternatively, the plan should also be flexible enough to account for changes or extenuating circumstances. This is a tricky balancing act. You want to give someone room to alter things when they genuinely need to, but you also don’t want someone to take advantage and constantly make changes. Your plan should, therefore, contain stipulations for necessary changes. For example, it can require documents from doctors or employers to verify the urgency or need for modifications.
Split Parenting Tasks
Instead of assigning tasks generically, consider who is best suited for which job. For example, one parent may be better at organizing the kids’ extracurricular activities while another could expertly manage homework assignments. Your plan should allow each parent to play to their strengths and interests.
Optimize Quality Time
Remember that quality and quantity are not the same. It may be necessary for one parent to have the kids less often, but that does not make the time together less valuable. In your plan, consider ways to make time with the kids more meaningful, going beyond squabbling over who has the kids more often.
Prepare for Changes
Time passes, and life changes. Your parenting plan may need to flow with these changes. Children age, and they become more independent. It may be necessary to continue alternating your plan with the times.
You can renegotiate and create new plans as you go, or you can account for these potential changes now. Consider all the ways your current plan may not work later, and think of ways to build around these changes. Ultimately, as long as both parents agree, your plan can include just about anything you wish.
Law Office of Nicholas T. Exarhakis is here to help you negotiate a fair parenting plan. Schedule time with us, and we may be able to review your case. You can contact us online or by phone at (410) 593-0040.