Divorce can be one of the most stressful times in your life. Often, when couples come in to speak with us, they are having trouble managing their daily activities. They can be under so much emotional stress that it is difficult for them to think ahead. Even though this is a stressful time, it is more important than ever to put your children first. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we do a lot of the ground work for your parenting plan so that you don’t have to. Here is a list of things to consider when you are thinking about your parenting plan:
1. The age of your child(ren):
Even if a schedule that minimizes exchanges with the other parent is not convenient for you, it may be what is best for your minor child depending on his or her age. In fact, research shows that children need frequent contact with both parents during the week until the age of 5. The younger your child is, the less time there should be in between visits. When your child gets a little bit older and more independent, you are going to want to consider what their lives entail. You and your spouse will have to work together to build a parenting plan that considers your child’s school schedule, as well as any extra curricular activities such as sports or clubs. It is important to allow your child to continue the activities that bring him or her joy.
2. Your work schedule:
There have been many times in my career when parents come to our office and state that they want a 50/50 schedule for their parenting plan. Often, one parent works so much that this may be a physical impossibility. When building your parenting plan, it is very important to realistically consider your own schedule. It is better to set a schedule now that you can stick to, instead of setting up an expectation for your child that you won’t be able to live up to. If you have a busy work schedule, but still want to have a lot of time with your child(ren), then see if your spouse will work with you to create more visits during the weekend or over three day weekends. You can be creative and find new ways to see your children while maintaining your responsibilities at work.
3. Your children’s needs:
During a divorce, it is possible that you will be angry at your spouse. You are probably experiencing strong emotions that are new to you and that you may not know how to cope with. Even though it is hard, you need to put your own feelings aside and remember that your child still needs your spouse in his/her life. Therefore, you will need to do what you can to facilitate as much time with the other parent as possible. Make sure you remind your child that he/she still has two parents that love him/her very much. Your kindness and compassion toward the other parent and your children are crucial during this time in your child’s life.
4. Administrative Matters:
When you build your parenting plan, you may get so caught up in the way the week will look that you fail to consider things like where to store your child’s medication, who will take your child to soccer practice, food allergies, making sure that there are plenty of outfits at each location, your child’s books for school, etc. By the time you get to mediation, you are already experienced at being a parent. Before your appointment, try to sit down with your spouse and make a list of these administrative matters. To your child, the small things count.
During your divorce, your child will be going through a period of transition. This will be the first time that he/she has two homes and a schedule to see both parents. This is why consistency is so important. Basically, it means that you should do your best to stick to the parenting plan you and your spouse have created. This helps manage your child’s expectations and will help him/her ease into the transition. You and your spouse should also discuss the concept of consistency with respect to discipline and reward. Even if your core values on these issues were not the same while you were married, it is important to set guidelines for discipline and rewards that will be consistent now.
We hope that this blog was informative and that you get a head start for building your parenting plan. At Alternative Divorce Solutions, we consider the tangible details of your lives in order to build the most effective parenting plans.