Last week we looked at how to create a parenting plan to divide your decision making after divorce. Establishing details and processes for decision making is the foundation of a terrific parenting plan. Be sure to create a plan with the help of an experienced mediator, family counselor, or collaborative attorney to draft a strong agreement-- built to withstand a lot of wear of tear!
Once you've got that foundation, develop the second part of your parenting plan: a schedule outlining what nights your child is sleeping at each house—or “allocation of custodial responsibility.” Remember, no one is “getting custody” or “having visitation”! Begin by asking yourselves (together or independently) these questions, for each child, when indicated. Remember, don’t pose questions to the children, the parents need to answer the questions!
- What are the objectives of your plan? Most parents try to create a plan that allows the children to have the most time possible with both parents and the least time possible in day care or with third parties. Is that important to you? If not, you may want to work with the mediator or your collaborative team to determine the objectives for your parenting plan to meet the best interests of your child.
- How old is your child? Does your child have any special needs? How might you describe the developmental needs of your child at this age?
- What is your work schedule? What is the other parent's work schedule? Are they consistent month to month or week to week? If there is flexibility, how much do you and the other parent have control over that flexibility? What is the process to change your work schedule temporarily or permanently? How much notice do you need to give or do you receive when there is a change?
- What is the child's school schedule? Is he or she in school all day? How much does that change? Where is the school located relative to your homes?
- What are your child's extracurricular activities? Does one parent or other tend to drive to them? Stay with the kids during the events?
- How many children do you have? How important do you believe it is for the children to be in the same house most nights together? How important is it for the children to have one-on-one time with each parent?
- Does your child like a very regular fixed routine? Does your child like to have predictability? Does your child thrive on variety or change? Or is your child someplace in between?
- Does one parent prefer to have the child sleep at their house on most school nights? Why is that important to them? Is there another way for those objectives be met? (For example, having the same schedule in each house or one parent consistently doing homework with the child regardless of where the child is sleeping.) How will both parents plan to have the child to spend enough time with each of them, always to feel “at home.”
- How far apart do the parents live from one another? How can the child or children be transported between houses? Can that be incorporated into the school schedule?
- If one parent has relocated, how will their parenting time be preserved?
- Where is the child's day care, if they have that daycare? What other options are available for daycare?
- If you and the other party are not living together now, what have you done since your separation that you liked? What feels like it is working?
To recap: You have figured out your decision-making. You've examined some important questions to answer about custodial time. Remember, mediation and collaborative law can provide you the best settings to work through these issues!
What’s next? Working on the schedule. In my next post, I’ll describe some schedules that work for many families.