If you and your spouse divorce, there are a multitude of decisions to make. Aside from separating finances, residences and debts, you also have the grueling task of dividing the time with your children.
Setting up a shared parenting agreement may seem impossible, especially if you and your spouse do not agree on anything. However, coming up with a practical and enforceable timesharing agreement is vital for your children. The court system always rules on what is in the best interests of the children, and as such, you should negotiate a parenting plan that puts them and their needs front and center. Discover these three essential elements every parenting plan should contain.
1. Co-parenting Agreement
A significant part of parenting children after divorce is doing so with the support of the other parent. When the children are not with you, the other parent should have the authority to decide how to handle situations that arise. However, it is helpful if both parents set a foundation of common goals that they both implement. For example, if the children are small, keeping bedtime consistent between both households may be key to the children’s success in school. The more consistent the two houses are, the better for your children. You may want to include agreements on how you agree to handle things like phone calls with the other parent, homework and afterschool activities.
2. Schedule of Physical Custody
The time the children spend in each household is the center of a parenting plan. Depending on your particular circumstances, it may be better for the primary residential parent to have the children more, or you may be able to split physical custody equally. Regardless, the agreement needs to detail the schedule. You also need to include deviations from the plan for things like:
- Summer break
- Holiday sharing
- Birthdays and special events
- Spring break
- Family vacations
Your schedule may change over time, and hopefully, the two of you can work it out rather than returning to court for a judge to do it.
3. Resolving Problems
One parent may violate the terms of the parenting plan repeatedly. When this becomes a detriment to the children’s interests, it may be time to consider going back to court. Part of the parenting plan agreement is how disputes and issues regarding the terms of the document will be resolved. Perhaps the parents must go through psychological services first, or something like alternative dispute resolution. The document is worthless if it is not enforceable in some way.
Getting help in drafting a parenting plan is recommended. A divorce lawyer has the expertise required for such an important document.