If there are children of your marriage, you will work through a parenting plan during the mediation process. A requirement in the state of California, a parenting plan is created to address how you and your ex-spouse would like to handle parenting the children (co-parenting). This can be as detailed or as broad as you both like. With litigation, however, you might have to follow a document similar to the Parenting Plan suggested by the Orange County Family Court.
So what are some things to consider when developing your parenting plan?
- DECISION MAKING Let’s face it, parenting is all about making decisions. There are many types of different decisions, such as day to day decisions (what your child will eat or wear that day) to major decisions (what school the child will attend, medical procedures, etc). Think about who is going to make these decisions and how the decision will be communicated to the other parent.
- VISITATION AND RESIDENTIAL SCHEDULES When deciding visitation, you are also going to factor in a summer schedule, school schedule, holidays and important events. This also will include where the child will live. A child could live full time with one parent and have scheduled times to visit with the other parent. It is up to the parents to decide what is best for the child.
- TRANSPORTATION Along with determining the schedule, there needs to be an agreement of who picks up and drops off, unless you are comfortable working through those details on your own.
- MONEY Aside from child support, there can be a discussion about other financial responsibilities such as paying for activities, medical bills or education.
- MOVING Some plans discuss what to do if the other parent must move. There might be an agreement to revisit mediation in the event of a proposed relocation.
- MEDICAL AND DENTAL CARE Make sure that these needs are met for your children and discuss how you will make decisions concerning these issues.
- SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT Some parents want to agree upon how they will raise their children with respect to their faith. Parents may choose to continue to go to the same church, temple or mosque or agree to at least be supportive of the other parent’s desire to expose their children to a particular faith.
- DISAGREEMENTS Have a plan in place to address how you will work things out if you disagree with the parenting plan. Mediation is always an option.
When you put a parenting plan in place, you may want to decide when to revisit the plan to ensure that it is working well for your family. The amount of detail depends on the type of relationship that you have as co-parents. By having a plan in place, you are keeping the courts out of the decision making process, reducing costs and maintaining more of a say as to what is best for your children. Your plan always should focus on the child’s best interests. Having a plan in place improves communication between both parents and provides a more positive experience for your child. It can also reduce the emotional stress when everyone is on the same page and in agreement. Parenting plans can be adjusted in the future to meet your child’s needs. There is no need to go to court to make those changes because mediation can easily help with the process.