When families split up, children still need to be cared for, and a parenting plan for divorced parents can help to make this process run more smoothly.
Families and Divorce
Children of divorced parents are still part of a family, even if it looks different after the legal proceedings are finished. Both parents should be involved in their child's life unless there is a compelling reason why this should not be the case. If the parents are able to get to a point in their relationship where they can either move past their anger, hurt and grief at the end of the marriage or deal with each other in a civil manner in spite of those feelings, the children will be able to adjust better.
Creating a Stable Environment
One of the ways that having a parenting plan for divorced parents can help is by setting out expectations for each parent. Whether the parents are together or not, they still need to agree about how to handle things like medical appointments, school functions and the daily life events that are part of raising children.
Whatever the details contained in the parenting plan are, the document should be written in a way that is respectful to both parents. Each person is entitled to a certain level of privacy, and the only issues that need to be discussed between them pertain to their children. Even though the parents' marriage has ended, it doesn't mean that each person can't effectively parent their own children. As long as the parties remember this fact, a parenting plan can work well.
Parts of a Parenting Plan for Divorced Parents
Each parenting plan is different, depending on the family involved. Even when a parenting plan is drawn up, it should be considered a living document that must be revisited periodically. As the children grow up, their needs change. The role that each parent plays in his or her child's life will evolve over time as well.
The parenting plan for divorced parents should include a statement about cutody of any minor children. One parent may have physical custody of the children or the parents may share joint custody. In a situation where one parent is the primary caregiver for the children and the other one has visitation privileges, then the schedule for picking up and dropping off the children should be clearly stated in the parenting plan. It may be helpful to include dates for an entire calendar year at a time in the parenting schedule.
Holidays and Vacation Plans
The parents will also have to decide who the children will be spending time with on holidays throughout the year. Specific vacation times can be set out in the parenting plan or the parents may choose to leave the dates open but specify that if one parent wants to take the child with him or her on vacation that they must first get permission from the other. If the parents choose to include a clause that permission must be sought before taking the child on vacation, they must also consider whether it is likely to be unreasonably withheld. If that is a concern, then having specific dates for vacation times may be a better choice.
The parenting plan can also include rules that each parent is expected to follow while the children are in his or her care. The following are some examples of issues the parents may want to address in this manner:
- Parent cannot enroll the child in an activity if it requires participating during the other parent's visitation period without express consent.
- Parent will not have guests of the opposite sex stay over during visitation times.
- Each parent must notify the other one if he or she moves to a different residence.
Before signing a parenting plan, it's a good idea to seek legal advice from a licensed attorney. The terms of the document can be enforced by the court, and the consequences of each clause need to be carefully considered before agreeing to them.