Following a separation or divorce, your children’s needs remain same, they need stability, nurturing, and security. They may have questions such as: Where will I be living? Who will be picking me up from school? Will I still get to see my friends? Do I get to go to my after-school activities?
These questions can be answered in a parenting plan. But what is a parenting plan? It is simply a written agreement about how you will raise your children together after a separation or divorce. It includes information about the parenting schedule, medical care, extracurricular activities for your children and so on. Once this plan has been written up, parents can get legal advice about it and the agreement can be legalized through a lawyer or the courts. This makes the agreement enforceable.
Here is a list of items you can include in your Parenting Plan:
1) Living arrangement & parenting schedules
2) Transportation and exchange of children between parents
3) Holidays, vacations & special occasions
4) Decision-making (e.g. medical care, education, extracurricular activities, religion, who the children will associate with)
5) Communication between parents and children
6) Extended Family – how they will be involved in the children’s lives
9) Communication between parents about the children
10) How to resolve any future conflicts
I provide parents with this list ahead of time when I am going to meet with them in mediation. Some go over these items together beforehand, others use it to put together a list of what they want to discuss with the other parent.
What are the advantages of you making a Parenting Plan yourselves rather than a Judge deciding for you
1) Benefits children to see their parents working together and being cooperative
2) Focuses on both parents having a say
3) Takes less time and money
4) Keeps the lines of communication open
5) Personalize to meet your children’s needs and your situation
6) Follow-through is more likely if parents make the plan themselves
7) Reduces conflict by having a plan to follow
Building a parenting plan helps you to move forward with a plan for you and your children’s future. It takes away some of the unpredictability experienced during a separation or divorce and creates stability by promoting clear communication, reducing conflict and acting as a guide.