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Parenting Plans

One of the main objectives of managing a divorce of parents with minor children is constructing a parenting plan and deciding on the types of custody and a parenting schedule that will work for both the parents and the children. It is one of the finest gifts you can give your children during a divorce. A well designed parenting plan lessens disagreements, decreases conflict, and helps the entire family understand and accept the future.

When children are growing and maturing, it is important for them to spend time with both parents. No matter how challenging the divorce process, no matter how difficult your spouse may seem, and regardless of what happens to the marital relationship, you and “the X” will be the parents of your children forever. You will still be (business) partners (and sometimes even reluctant partners) in raising your children. This partnership continues as long as both of you are living, not just until the children become adults. During graduations, birthdays, weddings, grandchildren and other special events, each one of these will pull you back into a parental role.

A well-designed parenting plan decreases conflict between parents, and increases the chances that the children will grow up in a stable environment and grow to be emotionally healthy. A solid plan also encourages parents to work together amicably. Eventually, most divorced parents realize that with a little consistency comes a future of predictability, which is important for the children and for the parents.

A well-designed parenting plan gives the parents an opportunity and the responsibility to participate in the children's education, extra curricular activities, health care decisions and expenses related to the children. When a detailed plan is adopted, many conflicts and power struggles are avoided or eliminated altogether. It may not seem important now, however drafting a detailed parenting plan saves future headaches and ‘misunderstandings’. The plan then allows both parties to feel secure about how the children are being raised and helps relieve some anxiety on the part of both parents. Some items that you should consider putting in your parenting plan are:

  1. A parenting schedule including school year, summer, holiday and vacations. The age of the child should be considered as a plan that may work for a six month old child may not work for a sixteen year old child.
  2. How transportation will be managed.
  3. Considerations in the event that a parent lives a long distance away from the other parent.
  4. Equal access for both parents to medical appointments and records, school records and teachers and events and extra curricular activities.
  5. How expenses and insurance for the children will be managed.
  6. Guidelines establishing communication between the parents and between the parent and the children.
  7. A decision regarding child support.

Children are going through an enormous amount of change during a divorce as are the parents. It is therefore important that the parents work with and not against each other. It is also important to try to keep court involvement at a minimum when dealing with certain parenting issues. Remember that the courts do not know your children like you do and they never will.  Both parents are obligated to attempt to provide the same needs the children would have as they would in family where divorce has not occurred – and your children will love and respect you for ensuring that happens.