Creating and Understanding Parenting Plans

It’s important for any family to have a parenting plan to insure a focused family environment. This is especially true for a family that is going through a divorce. A well designed parenting plan lessens disagreements, decreases conflict and helps the entire family understand what is taking place.

A parenting plan decreases conflict between the ex-spouses and increases the chances that children will grow up in a stable environment. It also encourages the parents to work together to discuss situations rather than argue about them. Most divorced parents soon realize that with a little consistency comes predictability. This will lower disputes between family members.

Parenting Plans
When children are growing up it is important that they spend time with both parents. A well designed parenting plan makes this possible. A plan helps the parents schedule time with the children, but it will also give the parents an opportunity to participate in the children's education, finances, and any health care they may need.

Some of the basics to keep in mind for your plan:

  • Consider the age of the children when designing parenting plans.
  • It’s important that the parents stick to the schedule, no matter how difficult it may be for either parent. This will give the child some sense of trust.
  • The younger the children are, the better it is for them for the schedule to be predictable. The parents must be aware that they need to work together in order to create a harmonious environment.
  • The parents must also be aware that the other parent has a difficult schedule to work with. This is why the parents must work out a realistic plan that can be followed by both of them.

Negotiated Parenting Arrangements
Parents who are going through a divorce must negotiate with each other in order to create a sound environment for the children. Divorce creates significant changes for children, so it’s important that the parents work together and not against each other when dealing with the children and their future. It’s also important to try to keep court involvement at a minimum when dealing with certain parenting issues. Remember that the courts don't know your children. A thoughtfully negotiated parenting agreement can minimize conflicts between divorced spouses.

Parenting Custody and Arrangements
Parents are obligated to provide for the children’s educational and medical needs, ensure their safety, etc. The same holds true in a divorce situation. If the custody is joint, then the parents must make arrangements for the new living styles for the children. Both parents are obligated to provide the same environment that children would have if the parents were not divorcing.

The most common custody arrangements that the court makes is either sole or shared custody. In a sole custody arrangement, one parent is the primary caregiver, while the other parent is granted visitation. Typically sole custody is awarded to the mother and the father has visitation rights. In shared custody, both parents are able to spend significant time with the children and parenting decisions are made together.