Joint Parenting Plan
Your co-parenting plan should focus on what is in the best interests of your child now and has he or she grows. Your child should always be priority number one when creating an effective co-parenting plan.
If you are unable to put differences aside with your former partner or spouse, or you are still experiencing feelings of anger and hostility, your co-parenting plan could be doomed to failure.
So, how do you design a co-parenting plan that will work for your family?
1. Keep It Consistent
Adjusting to life after divorce is as challenging for your kids as it is for you. Before you negotiate your co-parenting plan and time schedules with your co-parent, consider your kids’ current day-to-day routines, childcare arrangements, school schedules, and extracurricular activities.
Questions to Ask Yourself As You Plan:
- What routines can you keep consistent?
- What routine’s might have to change if the kids are moving between households?
- How can you minimize disruptions for your kids?
- If your kids are old enough, can you involve them in the process of structuring the co-parenting plan?
Remember, you shouldn’t ask the child where they prefer to live–that puts them in a uncomfortable spot–but you can ask them if there are days of the week they prefer to live in one location vs another to better accommodate their planned schedules and activities.
2. Consider Living Close to Your Co-Parent
This is a hard decision to stomach for recently separated parents, but one of the most challenging parts of co-parenting is the logistics of shuttling your kids back and forth between homes, as well as between school, childcare, and activities. Depending on where you live and where your co-parent resides, you and your kids may spend much more time in the car, traveling back and forth. This can end up eating up a lot of valuable hours in a day. Therefore many co-parents find it works better to live closer to one another.
3. No One Has to Win or Lose
Be prepared and know that most parenting plans are never “even-steven” on every issue. You may be the parent who ends up traveling more because your spouse lives closer to the school. Don’t try to punish your spouse by taking something away from him or her because you feel you are “giving” more. Both co-parents will have to make sacrifices now and in the future if you are committed to a healthy co-parenting relationship. While you may feel like you are sacrificing more now, that might change in the future.
4. Convenience Is Not the Goal
Believe it or not, convenience is also not the number one goal of the parenting plan. The purpose of the parenting plan is to create a schedule for your children that gives them quality time with both parents. Your parenting plan likely will end up being quite inconvenient for you at times, but keep it in perspective–you are doing this to benefit your children.
5. Be Flexible
Make sure you build a process into your co-parenting plan that determines how you will handle changes to the plan. No parenting plan lasts forever. Your kids are growing and changing, and they are going to have new interests, new friends, new responsibilities, and you and your co-parent will need to adjust to their schedules. Just as your child’s life will change, so will the lives of you and your co-parent. You may get new jobs; you may start dating someone else, or you may re-marry. Life is full of interruptions and complications. Communication between you and your co-parent is critical to making a the parenting plan work over time.
Co-parenting isn’t always easy. Creating a co-parenting plan that works well depends first on the attitude you start with. If you approach it with the knowledge that this plan is not about you and not about your co-parent, but about what is in the best interests of your children, you’ll be on your way to success.