Divorce is a difficult process. Emotions run high, stress levels rise, and the entire process can affect just about every aspect of a person's life. This is especially true when children are involved in the divorce process. In may cases, courts will require parents to work together to agree to the terms of a custody arrangement known as a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document where couples set forth the terms of shared child custody, visitation, holiday arrangements, and other pertinent information for the health and well-being of the child or children involved. The most successful parenting plans are those that are detailed and take into account many different circumstances that could arise after the divorce. When drafting a parenting plan, it is important to keep several tips in mind that can make the process easier for you and your co-parent.
Be Realistic in Your Approach
Chances are that you and the co-parent shared making many of the decisions important to your child's health and well-being during the marriage. When a divorce is eventually finalized and a custody arrangement is in place, it is often advisable that you work to create a plan where many of those decisions and/or responsibilities are divided fairly. Of course, there will be situations where this is not an option. However, when it is an option, you should try to incorporate it into your parenting plan. This not only relieves stress from one parent that may accept being burdened with a great deal of responsibility, but also helps keep the co=parent actively involved in the daily life of the child or children in question. Depending on the dynamics of your parenting plan, not every decision will need to be shared – but those that can be should be. Things that were difficult when both parents were continuously involved can become exponentially more difficult when only one parent has agreed to undertake them.
Do Not Punish a Co-Parent
You may have severe emotional wounds that will take a great deal of time to heal. Perhaps you were cheated on or lied to. While those are egregious occurrences that would certainly sour most people toward the person that committed such actions, a parenting plan is not the place to try and exact punishment on your soon-to-be former spouse. The emotional healing process is unique to each individual, but a parenting plan is not a part of that healing process. A parenting plan is about the best interests of your child. The focus is on your child's health and well-being, and while your own health and well-being do impact that of your children, you should not use a parenting plan to penalize your spouse for mistakes made during the marriage. This could have a negative impact on their relationship with you and, more importantly, with their children. Keep the focus of these plans on your kids.
If you and your spouse have agreed that you will have primary custody during the summer months, be flexible with any plans that your spouse may have during that time. It is often far easier to plan vacation during the summer so that children are not required to miss school. Or, your spouse's annual family vacation may take place during the last week of July every year. When you are aware of these factors and have the opportunity to plan ahead, you should try to do so. Don't look at it as giving in or losing out, but instead understand that there may be instances when you need accommodations related to your time or responsibility as listed in the parenting plan. Not everything should be a fight, and a little give and take by both parties in the face of proper planning can go a long way.
Be Clear and Precise
Being clear and precise in the wording you choose for a parenting plan can be indescribably helpful in preventing conflicts down the road. For instance, “Parent A will have the child for every other holiday after the divorce is finalized,” is a bit unclear. Instead, a detailed plan should say, “Parent A will have custody for the day immediately preceding, the day of, and the seven-day period immediately following these holidays: Easter, Thanksgiving, New Year's Day.” The latter version of the same type of important parenting plan element makes it clear what holidays are being discussed and the exact time frame Parent A will have custody of the child in reference to those holidays. You will also need to do the same for other important dates throughout the year, including a child's birth, parents' birthdays, extended family birthdays, and other important events.
Help with Custody
Parenting plans are just one aspect of the child custody process, which can be extremely complex. If you are considering divorce and have questions about the divorce process or child custody in particular, contact Eversole Law to schedule a consultation today. A family law attorney with experiencing handling divorce and custody proceedings can help answer your questions and provide advice based on the unique circumstances of your individual situation.