By Tamara Hoffstatter
Breaking the ties with your spouse and escaping a failed marriage is an opportunity for both of you to make a fresh start.
Of course, as long as the two of you have children in common, you are never really going to be able to be “rid” of the other spouse. Efforts will need to be made for each of you to be civil to the other and work together to raise the children.
Fortunately, a properly drafted divorce decree will provide you some standards and rules regarding the child custody and the parenting time schedule so that the two of you will not be “making it up as you go.”
The Parenting Plan
When a divorce is finalized, the custody of the minor children is established, and the court adopts a parenting plan.
The custodial arrangement and parenting plan sets forth the responsibility of each parent and provides a framework under which the parents will act in the raising and care of their children. It will list the days of the week that each of you are providing care for the children, it will divide and assign holidays, including pick up and drop off times, and it will provide for summer vacation with the parents, including rules on who gets to pick which weeks first from year to year.
The goal of the parenting plan is to leave nothing to interpretation and nothing to creativity. The roadmap is there, you just need to follow it.
So long as each spouse is following the parenting plan, it is much more likely that the parents will be able to cooperate and work together in raising the children.
Importance of Co-Parenting
Cooperation is important, for in many states, including New Mexico, where I practice, the court favors joint custody so long as the arrangement is in the “best interest of the children.”
Joint custody involves the parties’ co-parenting the children and playing substantially equal roles in the children’s lives. It differs from a sole custody arrangement, where one parent is the custodial caregiver and the other parent spends parenting time with the minor children.
The most important goal for parents to aspire to for purposes of custody is to be able to co-parent with each other, for it is one of the single most important factors in a child being able to more easily adjust after the divorce is final.
Because of this, the courts operate under the presumption that a joint custody arrangement is in the children’s best interest, and once this is established, the only way to modify that custodial arrangement is to show a substantial and material change of circumstances.
Parenting Keys To Success
Children need both of their parents. As parents we have to put our anger, hurt, and frustrations toward the other parent aside, and take caution to not pressure the minor child to “make a choice between mom and dad.”
Keeping in mind that the child is the innocent bystander in the divorce will go a long way to helping the child to better adjust and cope with the new life and emotions that he or she will inevitably be faced with both during and after the divorce.
Because emotions sometimes overpower our better judgment, it is a benefit to have a properly drafted parenting plan to provide the structure we need to make good choices for our children.