By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
If you have children, you will be required to prepare a parenting plan with your soon-to-be ex-wife. This is a good idea for many reasons.
You will have your child custody arrangement and time allotment with your children spelled out on paper. Gone are the days when mothers were given custody by default and dads were given “reasonable” visitation with the mother determining what was “reasonable.”
Until recently, almost all child custody was divided into custodial and non-custodial. The custodial parent had the children the majority of the time and the non-custodial parent had visitation.
Now, most custody arrangements are “joint” physical and legal custody with parenting time on both sides.
While it would be ideal to have a 50/50 designation of parenting time with your children, this is rarely the case because of scheduling conflicts, work hours, and variables in the activities of the children. A more a realistic split of parenting time would be 60/40 or even 70/30, depending upon the particulars.
Out-of-state parents often have a time split with children spending the school year with one parent and the summer with another. During large blocks of time away from their children, out-of-state parents can utilize Internet and mobile applications (such as Skype and FaceTime) to have ongoing communication with their children.
Another important aspect of a parenting plan is your power to make decisions on behalf of your child. Normally, a joint custody parenting plan gives both parents decision-making power.
Conflicts, of course, will arise just as they did when you were married. There will need to be a conflict resolution clause in your parenting plan that indicates how differences between you and your ex are to be worked out.
You should have language in your parenting plan that, in the event you and your ex-wife cannot come to an agreement on a decision regarding your child, you will allow a court mediator to assist in conflict resolution.
More Flexible Parenting Plans
Some parenting plans allow cooperative parents the freedom of determining pick-up and drop-off times, changes in days spent with each parent, holidays, and other pertinent logistics.
A child may want to participate in a Girl Scout event or soccer game that conflicts with the parenting time of one parent. This type of flexibility affords the child a more secure and stable relationship with both parents.
Other considerations in a parenting plan should include medical decisions; notification when emergency medical care/surgery is required; that both parents be provided with report cards; immunization records; schedules of the children’s important athletic/extracurricular events; and who a parent may allow to stay in the home during his or her parenting time block.
One thing to remember about a parenting plan is that it is permanent. As a child grows, it is possible for a parent to go to court and amend the parenting plan to fit both parents and the children.
However, the courts frown upon modification requests based on material changes. There has to be significant change in a child’s situation to warrant a material change to the parenting plan. Some examples are a parent who becomes terminally ill, moves out of state, or repeatedly violates the parenting plan terms.
A Better Arrangement
With the advent of the parenting plan, being a parent becomes an equal, cooperative venture between a mother and a father on paper. One parent no longer is afforded a physical or psychological advantage over the other, and this results in happier, more balanced, emotionally secure children.
Because they are proving to be vastly more effective than the custody/visitation model, a parenting plan is the best route to take for divorced couples with children.
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Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.