In divorce, a well thought-out plan for taking care of the children is critical, even for a flexible, agreeable couple.
When children are involved, one of the important issues that divorcing couples need to resolve during mediation is a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan is similar to a road map that parents and their children utilize as the parents go their separate ways and the children become acclimated to a new and different lifestyle. It defines, in a sense, the “time, place and manner” of parenting after the couple has split.
It is quite common that couples seeking mediation as a vehicle for their separation and divorce begin mediation in a cooperative state of mind. They realize that their marriage is over, but they respect each other, and are civil toward each other as they decide how to dissolve their marriage. With this mind-set a couple may not want to discuss or get into the nitty-gritty of developing an extensive Parenting Plan. They believe they will be able to be “flexible” regarding visitation and custody, just like they are being flexible and open during mediation. Here is the problem. Although they may genuinely feel like this initially, there is no guarantee that they will continue to feel this way in the future. Attitudes, goals and perspectives can and do change, especially once other people, like a step-mom or step-dad, enter the picture.
Therefore, I advise even the most agreeable of my clients to participate in the development of a detailed Parenting Plan that not only identifies regular visitation including specific days and time to be spent with each other, but also delineates what the parents and children will do during holidays, special celebrations, summer months, and financing for higher education.
A clear well-defined Parenting Plan is important for both children and parents. If the relationship between the parents continues to be cooperative, then they very well may be “flexible” with their Parenting Plan after divorce. If their feelings change, however, there still are the minimum obligations outlined in the Parenting Plan that provide visitation for the non-custodial parent and security for the children.
Parenting Plan assistance
Need help dealing with a parenting plan? Contact divorce mediator Jerry Fabiano today.
Image source: Road Map by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash.