Creating a co-parenting plan for divorced couples

On behalf of Bebout, Potere, Cox & Bennion, P.C. posted in child custody on Friday, November 25, 2016.

Divorce can be a stressful process even for couples who want to maintain a modicum of good will. In particular, the children of a marriage in the process of ending often struggle with natural feelings of anxiety about what their futures will entail. One idea to make the process smoother, to reassure the children that they are still loved, to make the process of child rearing predictable and to minimize conflict, is to create a co-parenting plan.

The plan you create may absolutely go beyond decisions related to who has custody and on which weekends and holidays the child stays with either parent. The plan should be made in writing and should be agreed upon in advance by both parents. An experienced attorney can help co-parents craft a parenting plan uniquely suited to their family’s situation.

Child rearing has become far more complicated than it was in times past, with both parents likely to work and with children participating in a number of extracurricular activities. Some of the factors to consider within the boundaries of a parenting plan are:

Issues of discipline. Sometimes each parent has a different approach when it comes to disciplining their child, so how this task is accomplished should be decided in advance.
Major decisions. These include everything from schooling, medical treatment (especially for a child with special needs), and religious affiliation, if any.
Scheduling. The time the child stays with each parent, including overnights, weekends, holidays, and summer vacation should be spelled out. It may be beneficial to include a provision for changes if circumstances warrant, such as changes in work schedules or, for a service person, an overseas deployment.
Amendments to the agreement. Sometimes things change, and therefore the co-parenting agreement would need to change as well. For example, perhaps the child is not doing well in public school and needs to be transferred to a private school or even home schooled. Both parents should be able to agree to such changes amicably when possible.
One significant advantage of a co-parenting plan is that it establishes responsibilities for each parent in advance, thus cutting down on the possibility of disputes. Whatever issues that caused the marriage to end, both parents should make the best interests of their children their higher priority. Both parents should be able to keep any discussions about child rearing civil and certainly not air any disagreements in front of the children. Nor should they try to use the children as weapons to take revenge on the other person. That sort of thing never ends well.

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