While sharing parental duties with a former spouse certainly has its challenges, you can likely avoid dozens of pitfalls by writing a comprehensive parenting plan. This binding agreement supplements your custody order by further defining the responsibilities and obligations of each parent. Still, there really is no such thing as a garden-variety parenting plan.
When negotiating and drafting your parenting plan, it is important to consider the unique needs of your post-divorce family. Nevertheless, your parenting plan may vary from others depending on a few factors, such as the age of your children or the parameters of your custody agreement. To get the most out of your plan, you may want to address four common topics:
- Holiday schedules
Holidays are probably special times for many members of your immediate and extended families. Put simply; your children likely cannot spend every holiday with both you and their other parent after a divorce. Using your parenting plan to arrange holiday schedules, including birthdays, may help you avoid future conflict.
- Custody exchanges
At the beginning and end of your visitation time, you must exchange the kids. This seemingly simple process can become contentious without much warning. Therefore, you probably want to address when, where and how you drop off and pick up your children.
- Decision making
Raising children typically requires making thousands of minor and major decisions. You and your ex-spouse may not always agree about what is best for the kids, though. If your parenting plan describes a process for making child-related decisions, you may have fewer disagreements in the future. Similarly, because conflicts inevitably arise, your parenting plan should include a framework for resolving disputes.
- Child-related expenses
Your custody order may have general guidelines for paying child-related costs. Nevertheless, if there are gaps in the court arrangement, your parenting plan may provide additional clarity. For example, you may choose to address unique educational, health care, extracurricular or other costs that may arise. While it can be difficult to predict all of your children’s future needs, putting some effort into your parenting plan is a good way to set reasonable expectations.