Whether you and your spouse are preparing to divorce or midway through the process, you both need to think about and come to an agreement on arrangements about your children. Cooperation between parents not only makes mutual decision-making easier, it also creates a healthier environment for the children and can lead to an increasingly collaborative relationship between the parents over time.
Creating an effective parenting plan is worth the time and investment, and not only because it is a preferable alternative to litigation. It will also eliminate contention on important issues affecting the children later on, and ensure that their post-divorce life is as conflict-free as possible.
What Is in the Best Interests of the Children?
The most important component of any parenting plan is the best interests of the children. It can take many forms, from essential needs like food, housing, and medical care to more abstract necessities like attention and love. Your arrangement should enable them to spend ample time with both parents while maintaining access to extracurricular activities and other pursuits that enhance their development.
Physical custody is another primary matter that needs to be agreed upon. Even in joint custody situations, the children will usually spend more time with one parent over the other. Some children need a ‘home base’ with minimal transitions when others do well with a week on/week off arrangement. Having an established plan for physical custody will also help avoid future disputes and give the children a sense of stability and structure that makes their post-divorce lives easier.
How Will Holidays Be Divided?
Divorcing parents should also discuss how the children will divide their time during summer breaks as well as cultural and religious holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. If the children are older, it’s a good idea to solicit their input. The list of important days will vary from one family to the next, but the final parenting plan should enable parents and children to spend a balanced amount of holiday time together.
When parents divorce, the issue of who pays for what expenses can become contentious if it is not completely and properly addressed in a parenting plan. As time passes, children’s needs in terms of clothing, medical and dental care, and extracurricular activities will change, and there needs to be a fair consensus on how much each parent contributes to the needs of each child.
How Changes Will Be Made
Parenting plans need to be flexible, and both parents should be prepared to modify it as time passes and needs change. Some future changes, such as school and college fees, can be anticipated and worked into the original divorce judgement, but others will have to be addressed as they come up. A spirit of cooperation is essential to success.
Parents who work together to create a mutually acceptable parenting plan will minimize the conflict that prevents children – and themselves – from adjusting to a post-divorce lifestyle. For assistance in creating a Utah parenting plan that is in the best interests of everyone involved, contact Arnold Wadsworth & Coggins today. We will review your family’s needs and situation to come up with a solution that’s fair, well-rounded, and positive.