Allowing the court to make your divorce decisions is stressful. There is constant anxiety about what you will “win” or “lose,” and all choices are completely out of your hands. No matter how biased, unfair, or flat-out wrong, the court’s ruling must be obeyed.
This fact is particularly worrisome when it comes to your children. The court decides what the child’s “bests interests” are, even though it doesn’t know them, you, or your family history.
Our firm always suggests that you avoid divorce court whenever possible. If you and your spouse can work together, you should create your co-parenting plan mutually. When you need help negotiating, options such as mediation are there to assist you.
When working on a parenting plan, there are several factors to consider. In this article, we will present some of these items, giving you a guideline for your plan.
When California courts rule on child custody, they use a percentage system. Essentially, each parent is granted possession of the children for a designated percentage of the year. Therefore, if you have the kids 20% of the time, you’ll have them for a total of 73 days annually.
To simplify your parenting plan, you may wish to use this system, too. It offers more flexibility than a rigid plan that demands every other weekend, swapping holidays, and so on. As long as the percentages are met, the agreement is intact.
Of course, you are free to choose whatever system you want. This is the beauty of working out the plan together. If you are more comfortable with a rigid swapping system, go for it.
The distance between parents is one of the most important considerations in a parenting plan. It affects everything. Think about it for just a moment. Your child has a life of their own. They go to school, have friends, attend church, have extracurricular activities, and more. Even when parents are near one another, it’s difficult for two people in two locations to manage all that.
Moreover, you may have a child with special needs or other health concerns. Continually shuffling them between locations can be stressful for everyone.
The point is this: The more distant parents are, the more one parent must sacrifice their time with the kids. Even at close range, an equal, 50% custody spit is nearly impossible. When creating your parenting plan, you must consider the burden distance puts on everyone. If you are further from the school, for example, it may be unfeasible to drop them off or pick them up. Unless you and your ex live right next door to one another, one of you must accept a lower percentage of time with the kids.
Even when distance isn’t an issue in child custody, your occupation could be. For example, you may have a completely different schedule from your spouse. You work nights, and they have a standard 9 to 5. Maybe you work from home, but your job requires deep focus and often spills over into late nights.
In these situations, forcing a closer percentage of custody is a bad idea. You should have the kids when you’re at your best. This is better for everyone involved. If you can’t manage your livelihood and care for the kids simultaneously, everyone suffers. Be prepared to accept a lower percentage of custody when providing for yourself and the kids creates time conflicts.
Raising kids is hard, especially when you’re on your own. Most people rely on outside help whenever they can get it. There are close family friends, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and more who can offer support.
This support, however, is not always mutual in a marriage. Often, one parent has close family nearby, while the other has family miles or states away. This creates a burden in a divorce. One person has many helping hands around, while the other is alone.
You must consider your outside support in your parenting plan. If you, as a now-single parent, have no one else to help, you should probably take the kids for less time during the year. If this situation changes, you can modify your parenting plan later.
Parental Strengths and Weaknesses
It’s not easy to admit our failings, especially when it comes to our kids. However, honest self-evaluation is vastly important for your parenting plan. When you were married, you likely worked as a parenting team. One person picked up the slack for the other. Now that you’re on your own, you must handle all the parenting jobs, even those that are challenging.
In most cases, the kids spend most of their time with one parent, especially during school weeks. Take a hard look at yourself, and consider whether you are the parent for that job. Can you handle homework, health concerns, emotional support, and all the other necessary aspects of weekday parenting? Is it possible that your former partner is more well-equipped for these tasks? Your answer could go either way, but whichever way it goes should dictate the percentage of time you spend with the kids.
If you need help creating a parenting plan, reach out to our firm today. We can help provide mediation to move negotiations along. Our number is (949) 558-2624, and you can contact us online.