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Creating an Effective Parenting Plan After Divorce

When you hear about custody battles amidst a divorce, you don’t often hear about a parenting plan, yet it’s the most central component of an effective custody agreement.

The parenting plan covers not just legal custody considerations, but also physical custody, and a good parenting plan doesn’t just determine when each parent will have the children—it should go much deeper than that and create a framework for how you, your former spouse and your shared children will essentially live post-divorce.

That may sound like a huge undertaking, but once you work with your former spouse and your family lawyer to create a comprehensive parenting plan, it actually can make the process much easier, less combative and pave the way for a smoother post-divorce transition.

Once both parents and a judge sign off on a parenting plan, it goes from an informal agreement to something that’s court ordered, and in order to modify it you would have to work with your lawyer. This means it’s important to really consider the whole picture when creating the parenting plan initially.

Questions to Consider

Before you launch into the creation of a parenting plan, there are some important questions you should ask yourself, and truthfully answer:

  • What is in the absolute best interest of my child, regardless of how I feel about my ex-spouse?
  • What are the technical restraints that could impact custody, such as how far I live from my former spouse, how many hours a week I work, where school is located, etc.?
  • Which parent is best equipped to take care of the daily things associated with the children, like homework completion, transporting to extracurricular activities, doctor’s appointments, etc.?
  • What will the impact be of not seeing the other parent for a certain period of time? What is the longest the child can go without seeing the other parent before it becomes problematic or upsetting? Think about the age of your children and how that will impact their perception of what’s going on. Younger children often need to see both parents more frequently to establish a sense of security, while older children may be able to better grasp what’s happening and go for longer periods without seeing one parent.

What’s Included

Along with a basic agreement of when each parent will see the child or children, a good parenting plan should include a plethora of information, such as:

  • Medical and health care: You’ll need to determine everything from who will cover taking the children to doctor’s visits, to who will pay for insurance and who will have access to medical records. Many parents even go a step further and create plans for who will care for a child in the event he’s sick or misses school, or even how doctors and health care providers will be selected.
  • Education: This can include school selection, who will pay for school, who will pay for extracurricular activities, who will be primarily responsible for making sure school-related responsibilities are taken care of and what type of education a child will receive.
  • Scheduling Changes: Even though a parenting plan becomes a binding agreement, of course things change in daily life, so parents should plan for this by outlining how they will handle potential scheduling or custody changes.
  • Traveling: Traveling can include everything from a vacation out of the country, to an actual relocation. Parents should try to plan ahead for these events and outline the steps that will be taken, whether it’s something like giving the other parent a detailed itinerary of vacations, or how much notice must be given in advance of a potential move.

These are just a few of the very many things that should be addressed in an effective parenting plan. It seems overwhelming, but a Rhode Island family lawyer can help guide the process and ensure everything is properly covered so that there’s less likelihood of unhappiness either on the part of parents or children. 

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