Creating the ideal parenting agreement is both an art and a science. It needs to be detailed enough so that it’s clear and easy to follow yet flexible enough to allow for exceptions and evolve as your kids get older. The best way to create a plan that’s good for you and your children, now and in the future, is by working with an experienced divorce mediator.
What is a Parenting Plan?
While every parenting agreement is as unique as your children, there are a number of areas each must cover. These areas include:
Who will your children spend nights, weekends, holidays, summers, vacations and snow days with?
Decision-Making Responsibilities for the Kids:
Who can make medical decisions on the children's behalf? Or move them out of state? Or change their name?
Issues Related to Your Children's Well-Being:
Things like schooling, health care, child care, religion and overnight guests, to name a few.
Exceptions to Parenting Agreements:
What happens if one of you has to travel for work during your "regular" parenting time? What happens if one of you wants to switch a holiday or weekend? Or wants to take the kids out of the country for an extended period of time on vacation?
There are very few guidelines that explicitly outline how to determine parenting time.
There are no "cookie cutter" formulas, books or websites that can help you build a parenting schedule that will meet the unique needs of your children and family. Even if you and your spouse think you have your parenting plan all figured out, in reality, you may have left a lot out because you simply "don't know what you don't know."
"We'll just figure it out as we go."
Even though they're divorcing, some couples get along fairly well when it comes to parenting. And while that's good news for their kids, it can be very bad news when it comes to creating good parenting plans.
Jeff and Amy are emotionally mature and can effectively co-parent their children, despite the fact that they're divorcing. They feel that they don't need to outline much in their parenting schedule. They get along well as parents so they'll "just figure everything out as they go." But unfortunately, parenting plans are about much more than just what's happening in the here and now.
The best parenting plans need to address not only the issues you face today, but the issues you'll face as parents in the future. Along with many other issues you might not even be aware of at the present time.
If you leave everything open, you’re going to have a lot of future problems.
Fast forward and it’s now 3 years after Jeff and Amy’s divorce was finalized. They were still getting along reasonably well for two and a half of the last 3 years. But then Rob, Amy’s boyfriend, entered the picture. Things are getting serious between Rob and Amy and the kids really like him, too.
Rob’s family lives in Texas, and he wants Amy and the kids to come with him to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. The plan is for them to fly to Texas the day before Thanksgiving and stay until the following Sunday. But Jeff is feeling a bit threatened by Amy’s new relationship.
Since at the time of their divorce, Amy and Jeff chose to leave their parenting arrangement wide open, Jeff feels he has a right to say no because he won’t get to see his kids on Thanksgiving. But Amy feels she can say yes because there’s nothing in their plan that says otherwise.
And the worst part? The kids are caught in the middle.
As you can see, determining how to create a comprehensive parenting plan isn’t always easy to figure out, let alone agree upon.
Since no two couples, divorces or parenting situations are the same, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to fairly resolving parenting arrangements. And as you’ve been learning, less is not more when it comes to creating a sound parenting plan. A lot of trouble can be caused by leaving even the smallest detail undiscussed and undocumented. And coming to agreement on what each of you thinks is fair and what’s best for your children can be quite tricky.
When the law gets involved, it’s a problem.
If you and your spouse (the parties) hire lawyers who can’t help you come to a child custody agreement, you’ll have no choice but to battle it out in court. And in a litigated divorce, a judge determines your child custody and visitation arrangement. But since there are very few guidelines surrounding custody, the judge will guess at what’s best for your children using something called “the child best interest” standard.
Are you willing to let a complete stranger dictate what’s best for your kids?
How will you get the best parenting plan? Mediation with us!
We’ll begin mediation with the creation of your parenting schedule and timesharing plan. Because there is nothing more important than your kids! This sets a good foundation for co-parenting. And fosters agreement in other areas such as: child support, alimony and the division of your marital assets and liabilities. Together, we’ll work to craft a comprehensive plan that’s as flexible and detailed as your situation requires. We’ll not only identify the issues you currently face, but the future ones, too. And actively guide you through negotiations in any areas of disagreement.
I’ll also make sure your parenting plan is thorough, easy to follow, and leaves nothing to interpretation.
While allowing you to play an active role in creating an agreement you both find fair and equitable. And that puts your children first.
If you and your spouse have both agreed to divorce and want to use mediation - an alternative dispute resolution process, take the next step and contact me.