Marriage and divorce have become parts of the collective American experience. Ninety percent of individuals marry by age 50. About 40 percent of these marriages end in divorce and involve a parenting plan.
Divorces are emotionally charged experiences for all involved. Adding children to the mix intensifies these emotions.
That’s why parents must create a clear custody schedule as soon as possible. Delaying could lead to more emotional distress for your children. After all, your ex-spouse remains your children’s parent no matter what.
Communicating with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse may be the last thing you want to do. Yet, it’s essential for moving on and creating a stable environment for your children.
Keep reading for tips to help you and your co-parent get on the same page when it comes to parenting plans.
Divorce and Kids
It’s easy to get caught up in the flood of emotions associated with divorce. Remember, though, that you’re not the only individual experiencing these feelings.
Divorce can be a traumatic experience for children, too. Nonetheless, it can also lead to happier times later. Research suggests that kids who grow up around high-conflict marriages experience more significant trauma than those whose parents divorce.
How can you ease the challenges associated with divorce? By developing a parenting plan and presenting it to your children (depending on their ages). Keep the lines of communication open to reduce the risk of future arguments.
Design and Implement a Parenting Plan ASAP
Children benefit from honest conversations about the changes in their family. They also do better when a stable, consistent routine gets established from the get-go. This approach minimizes the aftershocks of divorce months and even years down the road.
Do you know what else research shows us? Kids do better when they remain close to both parents. A poor relationship with one or both parents leads to a tougher time adjusting short- and long-term.
This information demonstrates the importance of making a parenting schedule right away and sticking to it. The faster you can design and implement the plan, the quicker your children will adjust to their new circumstances.
Yes, you and your former spouse may still be fighting over who gets to keep certain assets. You may have lawyers arguing over child support and spousal support.
These issues, however, must not spill over into your relationships with your kids. It mustn’t affect the time each parent gets to spend with them, either.
What Is a Parenting Agreement?
Crafting a parenting agreement sits at the top of your priority list. What should this document look like? Where should you start?
A court-approved parenting plan should be developed and agreed to by both parents of a minor child. What if parents can’t agree on the specifics of the agreement? Then, it gets established by the court.
For a plan to be approved by the court, it must address the following:
- The time-sharing schedule co-parents will follow
- Details about how parents will share daily tasks and responsibilities related to child-rearing
- Designation of who will be responsible for health care, school-related events, and other activities
- The methods and technologies parents will use to communicate with each other and their child
- Child support payments and schedule
What is a time-sharing schedule? It’s a timetable or calendar included in the parenting plan. It should show how much time a child spends with each parent, including overnights and holidays.
Making a Parenting Plan
How to write a parenting plan? This agreement should outline how each parent will continue to care for and provide for their children.
Fortunately, advanced management calendar software can help. It lets parents develop, share, and apply a custody plan, from creating a calendar to managing expenses and other communications.
As you build a co-parenting plan, streamline the process with software designed to handle all aspects of co-parenting. Besides containing the information the court needs, this software can help you add items about:
- Medical and health care
- Education and extracurricular activities
- Information about exchanges
- Parenting guidelines
- Child and parent relationships
- Traveling and relocating with the child
- Child support and financial information
Let’s break each of these elements down further. We’ll also look at how they can help kids feel more stable and reassured during and after a divorce.
Medical and Health Care
What should the medical and health care portion of the plan address? For starters, who pays for medical and dental costs. It must also stipulate which parent will cover insurance expenses and for how long.
It should explain who will transport the kids to and from medical appointments. You should also address special needs children and specific medical concerns.
Educational and Extracurricular Activities
As for education and extracurricular matters? These include decisions like where the child will go to school and how they’ll get there. It should also address paying for school expenses and activities. For example, be sure to define who attends parent-teacher conferences and school events.
Don’t forget about extracurricular activities, either. Which activities will be permitted? How will parents be expected to support these endeavors?
For example, if your child participates in karate, who will pay for classes? Who will transport your child to practices and belt tests?
Information About Exchanges
The details associated with exchanges should also be hashed out ahead of time. These include where exchanges will take place and who will transport children to each one. Your plan should also contain provisions for bad weather and driving-related issues.
After all, unforeseen circumstances may arise from time to time. Whether they involve a traffic jam, snowstorm, or late arrival to an exchange. Having a plan head of time will help you and your co-parent to avoid conflict.
Deciding on parental guidelines will make life go more smoothly for all involved. Being on the same page about discipline, bedtime routines, and more, will also create a greater sense of stability for your children.
Other issues to consider include alcohol and tobacco use around your kids. You may also wish to include language about the types of movies and television shows permitted.
Child and Parent Relationships
When your child is with their co-parent, how much communication will you have with them? It’s important to decide this upfront. Of course, you’ll need to extend the same courtesy in return.
Will your children keep in touch through telephone or video calls? If so, how often and when? Deciding these details in advance will reduce everybody’s anxiety levels.
Parents may also include information about co-parenting best practices. These include not talking about each other to the children, avoiding offhand comments, and refraining from using kids as messengers.
What happens when your co-parent is unavailable to watch your child during a pre-scheduled parenting time? Many parents like to set up a first right of refusal option. This option allows them to watch their child instead of a babysitter or other individual.
Traveling and Relocating
What about family vacations and other travel plans? How about the potential for relocation? These two topics can lead to heated exchanges quickly, especially if co-parents don’t give each other much notice of their travel plans.
When you don’t provide the proper notice before traveling or relocating, you may incur the wrath of the court. It may find you in violation of your custody agreement. In some cases, courts can even bar parents from moving a child out of a city or county.
Child Support and Financial Information
Child support likely comes up first when you think of post-divorce finances. You’ll soon realize, however, that many other types of financial obligations arise. These include everything from extracurricular activities to medical insurance and taxes.
In your parenting plan, specify which parent will claim the children on their taxes. List who will pay for what. You’ll also want to include language about how one parent will reimburse the other for child-related expenses.
As you work out a plan, always put your children’s needs first. Remember that they should have access to both parents unless there are extenuating circumstances. (For example, addiction or domestic violence may preclude a parent’s right to their children.)
Don’t put kids in the middle or make them feel as if they must choose a side. Do, however, ask older kids for their feedback and opinions. Consider what they want and how you can incorporate it into your parenting plan.
Teenagers, for example, often have busy lives and are gaining a greater sense of independence. If you hamper this budding self-reliance, it could make them resent you.
Parenting Plans After Divorce
Do you feel overwhelmed by all of the potential topics you should cover in your parenting plan? If so, remember this. The more parenting-related issues you and your co-parent can resolve upfront, the less conflicts you’ll see later.
Stay reasonable and clear in your communication of parental roles and responsibilities. This practice will help you avoid conflict down the road, which is an excellent thing for you and your kids post-divorce.
Looking for more information about crafting a parenting plan? Check out our article on four tips for maintaining excellent communication during a divorce.