Divorce can be a difficult and emotional process, but when there are children involved the stakes can feel so much higher. It is important to remember that while you may no longer be married to your spouse, your children will still need both of you in their lives. A parenting plan can help provide the structure and guidance needed to ensure that both of you are able to remain involved in your child’s life after your divorce is finalized. In this blog, we will discuss five things to include when creating your parenting plan.
#1. Parenting Time Schedule
A parenting time or custody schedule should be included in your parenting plan and should outline when each parent is able to spend time with their child. The schedule should take into account both parents’ work schedules, other commitments, and special occasions like holidays or birthdays. It is important to make sure the parenting schedule is manageable for both parties involved. This will often involve compromise to create a schedule that works for both parents as well as for their children.
When it comes to creating a parenting time schedule, it is important to be as specific and detailed as possible. This means outlining what days of the week each parent will have custody, who will provide transportation for pick-up and drop-off, and which parent will have responsibility for making any necessary medical or school appointments. Additionally, the schedule should contain provisions for temporary changes in the schedule due to vacations or business trips.
It is also important to consider special occasions such as holidays and birthdays. To ensure that these events are enjoyable for all involved, parents should include details regarding how they plan to divide these days between themselves. For example, both parents may agree to spend an equal amount of time with their child on holidays or alternate years celebrating their child’s birthday. In some cases, parents may be able and willing to spend time together on special occasions like their children’s birthday.
Other things that can be included in the parenting time schedule include:
- Scheduling regular phone calls or video chats with the other parent
- Agreeing on appropriate activities for visits
- Setting limits on overnight stays away from either parent's house
- Establishing guidelines for introducing new romantic partners
- Scheduling times for extended family to visit
#2. Communication Guidelines
Establishing guidelines on how communication will take place between you and your former spouse can help ensure smoother interactions when it comes to discussing matters related to your child. This could include a policy on how often you two will communicate, what types of communication are preferred (i.e., email vs. phone/text), who initiates contact and whether conversations need to be supervised.
It is important for parents to agree on communication guidelines between them to ensure that all conversations related to their children are respectful, productive, and focused on the best interests of the child. Parents should also consider how they will communicate with each other for events or activities that fall outside of their parenting plan.
When establishing communication guidelines, it is important to consider both parents’ schedules and the potential for miscommunication or conflict. For example, if one parent works long hours or travels frequently, they may not have time for regular phone calls or video chats with the other parent.
#3. Financial Responsibilities
The parenting plan should also include who is expected to pay for the child’s expenses, such as medical bills, school tuition, extracurricular activities, and more. It is important to ensure that both parents are contributing financially so that your child’s needs can be met in a fair and equitable manner.
To help make this process easier, parents should consider some of the following points when determining financial responsibilities:
- Establishing a budget for the child’s needs. This should include all necessary expenses such as food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and any other necessary costs associated with raising a child.
- Setting guidelines for how each parent will contribute financially to these expenses and when payments should be made.
- Agreeing on who will handle insurance coverage and which parent will be responsible for deductibles or copays related to their child’s health care needs.
- Agreeing on who will cover the cost of any extracurricular activities or education programs that may be out of pocket expenses for either parent.
- Setting expectations around how tax returns will be handled if one parent is claiming the child as a dependent on their taxes.
- Deciding who will have responsibility for making payments towards any student loans or other debt related to the child’s education expenses.
It is important to note that these are just some considerations when it comes to financial responsibilities for parents after divorce. Each family's situation is unique, and it is important to consider individual circumstances when establishing financial responsibilities in a parenting plan. Additionally, both parties should seek legal advice before signing off on any final decisions about how finances will be handled after divorce.
#4. Decision-Making Authority
Decide which decisions you will make together (i.e., healthcare choices) and which ones one parent or the other will have the final say on (i.e., education). This section of the parenting plan should include a clear outline of which decisions fall into each category so there is no confusion about who has the final say on certain matters.
When it comes to decision-making authority, parents should establish clear expectations for how decisions will be made regarding their child. This section of the parenting plan should outline which decisions are to be jointly made and which ones one parent or the other will have final say on.
Some of the areas where parents will need to make decisions include:
- Healthcare: Decide who will be responsible for making healthcare decisions related to their child, such as choosing a doctor or deciding on treatments or therapies.
- Education: Agree on who has final say in regard to schooling decisions, such as selecting a school or participating in extracurricular activities.
- Religion: Establish guidelines for how religious practices and beliefs will be managed during each parent's time with their child.
- Discipline: Decide what types of discipline are appropriate and when each type can be used. It is also important to agree on how disagreements about discipline should be handled if they arise between parents.
- Social media: Set boundaries for acceptable behavior online and agree on rules for monitoring social media usage during visitation periods with either parent.
- Substance use: Establish rules around smoking, alcohol use, and drug use in both parents' homes.
Considering both parties' desired level of involvement in these matters can help ensure that all involved are able to maintain a healthy level of communication while still being respectful of each other's wishes and rights as parents.
#5. Conflict Resolution Strategies
It is important to include conflict resolution strategies in your parenting plan so that both parents know what to do when disagreements arise. This could involve creating a list of ground rules for interacting with each other or implementing a system where one parent checks-in with the other before making a decision about their child. Establishing these guidelines can help make sure disagreements are handled amicably and with respect for both parties involved.
Below are some tips for developing successful conflict resolution strategies for co-parenting after divorce:
- Set clear expectations on how conflicts will be addressed and communicated in an appropriate manner. This could involve agreeing to only communicate via email or an agreed upon platform, setting time limits on conversations, or agreeing to speak through a mediator if needed.
- Agree to discuss any issues calmly, courteously, and without belittling each other’s point of view. When discussing difficult topics, it is important to remember that the goal is always to come up with solutions that work best for the child and not necessarily what either parent might want in any given situation.
- Take accountability by avoiding blame or finger pointing when discussing issues related to co-parenting after divorce. It is important for both parents to take ownership of their actions and recognize the impact those actions have on their child’s well-being.
- Practice active listening skills by remaining open and allowing the other parent’s opinion to be heard and validated without interruption. Taking turns speaking can also help foster understanding between both parties involved in the discussion.
- Agree on consequences should either parent fail to adhere to conflict resolution strategies outlined in the parenting plan. This could include taking a break from communication until both parties have had time to cool down or seeking outside assistance such as counseling or mediation services if necessary.
Having effective strategies in place can help ensure that disputes between parents are handled in a respectful way while keeping their child's best interests at heart. By agreeing on procedures beforehand, parents can avoid unnecessary hostility, maintain healthy communication, and ultimately create an environment conducive to providing the best possible care for their child after divorce.
In some cases, however, you may need to make changes to your parenting plan that need to be formalized in court. In a previous blog, we discussed when it is possible to request a court ordered modification to child custody, visitation, or child support.
We Can Help You Build an Effective Parenting Plan
Creating an effective parenting plan can be challenging, but it is essential for ensuring that your child’s needs are met after divorce. By following these five tips, you can create a plan that will provide structure and guidance during this difficult time. At Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., we understand how important it is to create a successful post-divorce parenting plan. Our experienced attorneys will work closely with you to ensure your rights and the best interests of your child are protected during this process.
Contact us online or call us at (281) 612-5443 for more information on how we can help develop an effective parenting plan that works for you and your family.