One of the most important issues to be resolved in the Separation Agreement is the Parenting Plan. Unlike the decisions regarding the marital residence and retirement plan that end with the distribution of resources, the parenting plan is an ongoing document parents and children must live with and honor for a long period of time. As such, it is important the parents think carefully about the details of this plan as it impacts them and their children not only at the beginning of the separation/divorce, but in the future as well.
Many times when clients come to divorce mediation they have a good relationship with each other. They recognize that their marriage is over and are ready to move on and start a new life. As such they tend to want to be vague and general about their parenting plan. They avoid specific times for receiving and returning children; instead, they talk in terms of “mutually agreeing.” They say they will “be flexible” regarding vacations and holidays instead of identifying specific periods of time and specific holidays. They want to use “reasonable access” instead of “from 8:00 am until 2:00pm.” All of these general terms are potential problems. Parents who are cooperative and understanding at the time of separation/divorce may not feel that way after a couple of years or after one has become involved with a “significant other.”
Therefore it is wise to be specific and definitive when developing a parenting plan; you can always be flexible if the other parent is willing, but you can’t enforce an expected visit unless it is written into the Agreement.