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Developing a parenting plan

Children who live with both parents at least one-third of the time do better in school and have better social skills. Research from the American Coalition for Fathers & Children clearly demonstrates that children benefit from shared residential custody, even when their parents aren’t on friendly terms. One way to minimize conflict after a divorce and to help a child cope with the change is to create a parenting plan.

What questions should you discuss

If the two of you can’t agree on a plan, a mediator is a good idea to help you deal with the discussion. Here are some of the elements of a parenting plan that you want to consider:

  • A schedule for parenting time, including special events, school vacations and holidays
  • How will extra expenses be handled?
  • How should parents communicate with each other about doctor’s appointments, school events or sports and other activities?
  • How will drop-offs and pick-ups be handled? Which parent does which?
  • Who makes which decisions about the child?
  • What are the common rules for both homes, e.g. doing homework before getting to play video games or watch TV?
  • How will disputes between the parents be handled?
  • How will the plan be adjusted as the child goes through different stages of life?

You know your child the best, and you know what issues need to be addressed. Children with special needs may have many more items that have to be worked out in a parenting plan. When two parents live far apart, you may have to discuss travel arrangements for small children. Every family has different needs.

Other factors to consider

Your parenting plan needs to be useful, which means it should have details that take into account the age of the child currently, your ability to work with the other parent and the reality of your situation. A parenting plan does not address issues such as property division or child support, which is generally set by the state’s guidelines. You may still need to work out the details of the divorce outside of the parenting plan, but learning to work together in one aspect can assist you in working together in other elements of the divorce.

Co-parenting isn’t always possible in divorce, but you should try to do what’s best for the children. Talk to an experienced child support lawyer who can help you find the best possible outcome in your divorce. Even if you’re in a highly contested or complex divorce, your attorney can listen to your side and explain the law to you to determine your options.