If you are facing a divorce that involves children, it’s essential to put together a Parenting Plan that both meets your children’s needs and also doesn’t end up causing too many unnecessary and repetitive conflicts.
Without one, you may find yourself in the kind of frequent arguments with your soon-to-be ex that makes you want to slash up all their favorite shirts with your garden shears and leave them in a heap on the front lawn.
Putting together a dynamic Parenting Plan requires that both parents learn how to make the challenging transition from relating to each other as a married couple to becoming parents who have learned through advanced planning and negotiation skills how to co-parent together effectively.
Here are 5 Steps for a Parenting Plan with Fewer Conflicts:
1. The plan addresses how to meet each child’s needs– outlining specific times with each parent and extended family, time with peers, holiday and vacation arrangements, their school schedules, how to handle days off from school and who will be providing the children’s transportation back and forth. Also be sure to include extracurricular activities such as sports, church, clubs, music lessons and other activities that each of the children participates in.
2. Make sure that the plan clearly states how often the parents will agree to review the plan and what specific steps they will follow if either wishes to revise it. Many parents choose to review their plan every two years and depending on the ages of the children and their stages of development, the parenting plan may need to be reviewed more often.
3. Your parenting plan should specify which parent will be held financially responsible for what percentage of each child’s expenses. These include medical, dental and vision insurance and unreimbursed expenses, clothing needs, school expenses, the costs of child care and after-school activities and sports equipment and fees. Also, don’t forget to include clear wording about how each parent will share the costs for summer child care, vacations, camps and anticipated future expenses such as orthodontia, cell phones, cars, auto insurance and college costs.
4. Include specific penalties about what will happen if the parenting plan terms are not followed. Both parents should know up front about what the consequences will be for not following the plan—especially if this becomes a pattern of behavior that continues over time.
5. When you do have a disagreement, carefully consider the timing of when you’ll bring it up to the other parent and strive for a business-like approach in a neutral place if you decide to meet in person. These steps are just some of what you’ll need to know to put together a Parenting Plan you can live with long-term that will lead to fewer conflicts with your ex.