When you have children, the entire divorce process takes on a new dimension. One of the largest and most important parts of a divorce agreement deals with how the minor children of a marriage will live after the divorce, and it will be up to you and your soon-to-be ex to make those plans. What used to be called child custody is now widely known as a parenting plan, so read on for some tips to consider before you sit down and create your own plan that addresses your unique needs.
What goes into a parenting plan? Almost any issue that deals with a child go into this catch-all category, including:
- Legal custody
- Physical custody
- Child support
- Health insurance
Keep it as simple and easy as possible: In your efforts to be fair you might just end up making visitation or other plans that turn out to cause chaos. It might be helpful to keep in mind that your child is already going through more changes and adjustments than might be healthy, so keep your plan as easy to follow as possible.
Parenting plans can range from 50/50 (or co-parenting) to joint custody to birds nesting. The more complicated the plan, the more room you have for misunderstandings, missed school pick-ups and a stressed-out child and parent.
Don't over-commit: It's easy to imagine that you can spend time with your child that exceeds your actual time available. Take a good look at your work schedule and other commitments before you over-extend yourself because your life is sure to suffer if you don't. It's better to be reasonable and flexible than to disappoint a child.
Get ready to be organized: Children are busy these days with social, education, volunteer, sports, and other activities and you and your ex will need to stay on top of their schedules by using a shared calendaring system such as Google Calendar. Prompt attention to appointments, sleepovers, and canceled violin practice will help keep everyone on the same page of music.
Ask your children, maybe: Depending on their age you might want to find out how your children feel about who they want to spend time with, but use caution. Even older children who are craving independence could be placed in a vulnerable position if they are asked to make adult decisions. Casual conversations about their wishes are better than forcing them to decide who and when they want to spend time with after the divorce.
Speak to your family lawyer for more information.