By: Amanda Vann, Esq.
Many parents going through a divorce decide not to litigate child custody and instead work out a parenting plan. It is a difficult process even for those who remain amicable with one another, as there are many things to consider when it comes to your children. Below is a checklist that I recommend parents use when trying to come up with an amicable parenting plan:
1. Residential Custody: Meaning, the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Give consideration to the child’s activities and school schedule, as well as each parent’s respective work schedules to come up with a daily/weekly timeshare. Ensure you address transportation between the homes and activities. Rescheduling and remaining flexible is important because what may work this month may not work when your child has a new activity. Ensure you address the weekly, holiday, and summer schedule. You don’t have to have a strict schedule, but ensuring that you carve out a weekly schedule, as well as holiday time for the major holidays, can relieve a lot of arguments and stress in the future.
2. Communication: Both between you and the other parent, as well as both parents and the child. Are you and your ex able to cordially talk to one another, or is email and/or texting more suitable? Does your child have a lot of activities, or is their schedule is constantly full and changing? Perhaps look into using a calendar sharing program, such as Our Family Wizard, where you can share schedules, notes, updates, etc. Ensure that you address the child being able to communicate with each parent when that parent doesn’t have the child. It is difficult for children to go back and forth between homes and can take some time you adjust, so establishing a routine can be helpful. Oftentimes, the child can benefit by having FaceTime and a phone call before bedtime to say goodnight and recap their day. In higher-conflict cases, parents can often get bogged down in the details of scheduling calls at an exact time and duration, but keep in mind that your children and you will not always be available at a set time and being flexible can be extremely helpful to you later on.
3. Activities: Ensure that you discuss extracurricular activities and payment for said activities. Give consideration for your child’s wants and desires, but recognize that having your child in numerous activities can put a strain on your finances, as well as your time with your child and the time your child has to focus on their schooling.
4. Boundaries: Being in sync with discipline is vital. Even parents who are living together in marital bliss (I’m not even sure that is a thing) find it difficult to be on the same page when it comes to disciplining their child. If you are going through a breakup, tensions can already be high, and it is imperative that you both come up with a mechanism for ensuring you are in sync when it comes to disciplining your child. Neither of you is benefitting your child by being inconsistent with one another. You both need to explain and reinforce rules and punishments to ensure your child knows the two of you are on the same page with them, even if not on the same page with each other.
If you are looking for advice regarding a parenting plan or separation agreement, or are looking to file for divorce in Maryland, contact our divorce lawyer team today.
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