How To Create a Parenting Plan That Works for Your Family After Divorce

Going through a divorce is hard enough, but when children are involved, it can be even more difficult. We're going to share some tips that will help you create a parenting plan that works for everyone.

Divorce is widely considered one of the most life-changing experiences a family can go through. When children are part of the equation, muddy waters and heightened emotions become even more challenging to navigate. When you take time to think through the tough stuff early in the process it can help alleviate stress and anxiety about the big changes that divorce brings. 

What Is a Parenting Plan?

The technical definition is that it's a legally enforceable document that details terms both parents are comfortable with regarding custody and visitation of the children. American parents are growing more amicable during divorce, and a responsible parenting plan can keep that peaceful transition. 90% of child custody cases are settled without a judge's order, and 40% of states prefer parents to come to a shared custody agreement when possible. The good news is that courts prefer that parents assess their realities and figure out what parenting plan will work for them because no one knows better than you what will work best for you and your kids. 

In people-speak, a parenting plan is the schedule that dictates with whom your child/children will spend their time with and for how long. In addition to the matter of primary or joint custody, a parenting plan should also cover things like visitation, weekend or family trips, holidays, or school functions. 

When sitting down to create a parenting plan, the more details you consider the better! Though it can be difficult, open communication now can save you from hiccups later down the line.

Pro Tip - Parenting plans, like life, will change over time. Remember that if challenges come up in the future you’ll be able to address them and make changes as necessary.

Here are some additional ideas you should consider when starting to work on your parenting plan:

  • Are you switching off who spends holidays together? 
  • How will you celebrate your child’s birthday?
  • What happens if one parent is sent out of town for work for an extended period of time? 
  • What does the child’s school calendar look like and how will that effect the parenting plan?
  • How will your child's extra curricular schedule be handled?

One great piece of advice on how to create a parenting plan was shared with Divide & Thrive by New York State based family law attorney and mediator Lauren Hunt. Lauren suggests printing out a blank calendar and start plugging in your child’s schedule, your schedule and your EX’s schedule. More often than not a natural pattern will start to appear and help guide you toward a plan than will work as best as possible for everyone. Divide & Thrive's Divorce Planner comes with monthly and weekly calendars that help you puzzle out your unique parenting plan. Check it out HERE

Maybe it's one week at your house, the next with your co-parent. Or perhaps you find that one person's schedule only allows for them to have the kids on weekends and the other parent gets weekdays. 

The #1 thing to keep in mind when working on your parenting plan is that no one plan works for everyone, so don't feel like you have to squeeze your life into someone else's idea of what is "supposed" to be right for you and your family. 

The Tough Stuff

When drafting the ideal parenting plan, it's necessary to tackle the unpleasant things most families never want to consider. Health and medical needs of the entire family, health insurance, life insurance, and keeping the homes where the children will be spending time safe are all priorities. 

Even custody arrangements if one parent should pass away unexpectedly should be covered thoroughly. As unpleasant as many of these topics are, the practical matters should be put in writing.

Want more helpful parenting plan tips? Check out Divide & Thrive's full conversation with family attorney and mediator Lauren Hunt HERE . 

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