Divorce Without Damage – Your Parenting Plan
Posted by: Sue Atkins
Your Parenting Plan
This is an example of the sort of basic parenting plan that I help the parents I work with to create, as they go through the transition of divorce.
It will help you think through the numerous issues related to co parenting your children from now on – it is designed to get the conversations started ( without anger or misunderstanding) and of course it should be flexible as your children mature, grow up and become more independent and needs to be adaptable so that it actually works for your family.
There is no magic formula and one size doesn’t fit all, as you and your family have your own style, rhythm and traditions and of course are navigating the choppy waters of change so of course it’s all rather a new experience.
But one thing is for sure, by creating your Parenting Plan you are reducing the stress to your children, and creating a tool to help you co – parent.
I encourage all the parents I work with to adopt an attitude of respect and dignity and to put aside their differences, where possible, and to put the best interests of their children at the heart of the process. It’s really important to remember that you are designing a blue print for success, harmony and happiness for your children.
The questions are organised by common issues that you and your child’s other parent will likely want to address. The issues for this Parenting Plan are: residence, financial , school, holidays, special occasions like birthdays and Christmas, extracurricular activities, spiritual life, medical and dental care, and miscellaneous items.
Use this model to prepare yourself for a discussion with your child’s other parent or your lawyer. If a question doesn’t apply to your situation, simply skip over it and move on to the next question – this is just an example of the sort of common questions that come up that need addressing.
You may expand or develop other areas for discussion for your family as this is intended as a working guide only.
Parenting Plan: Residence
If you have more than one child, is it important to you that they stay together?
Do you believe your children should live primarily with you or with their other parent? If the children were to live with you, what efforts would you make to ensure that they spend time with and have a meaningful relationship with the other parent? If your children were to live primarily with your ex partner, what efforts would you expect the other parent to make to ensure that your children spend time and have a meaningful relationship with you?
Assuming your children were to live with you, when should they spend time with their other parent? Weekends? Weeknights? Summer? Other? What is the ideal balance for them to spend time with their other parent?
Assuming your children were to live with their other parent, when should they spend time with you? Weekends? Weeknights? Summer? Other? What is the ideal balance for them to spend time with you?
What are your thoughts regarding the amount of time your children spend on technology, mobile phone, Internet, TV generally and how will you agree the same amount of time with their other parent when they are with them? Address frequency and length.
How will your children communicate with their father/ mother – by phone, Skype, text ? Would you like a set time for the calls or can they be spontaneous? Should the residential parent agree not to interfere with or listen in on these calls? If applicable, who is responsible for the cost of the phone calls?
If childcare or baby sitting is needed, do you want the other parent to have the first right of refusal? If so, how will you communicate about his? How far in advance will you need to make the request?
Do you intend to continue living in the same area until your children are adults? If you were to move, where might it be?
How closely should the two of you live to each other while your children are growing up?
What restrictions or agreements should the two of you make, if any, about what happens if one of you moves from the area?
If you are separated by distance, whose responsibility is it to pay for the children to travel? Should there be an adjustment to child support?
Parenting Plan: Financial Issues
How will the two of you share the costs of supporting your children?
What general savings (in addition to or separate from college costs) should be set aside for your children? Who is responsible to contribute to them and who should manage the funds?
Who pays for what? Be clear about school shoes, ballet lessons, petrol to and from activities, visits.
Who pays for dog, cat, gerbil vet bills, and food?
Parenting Plan: School
Do you believe that your children should remain in their current school?
Should both of you have access to school reports, notice of school events, extracurricular events, and visits with teachers on Parents Evening? Can both of you visit children in class, or volunteer in class, and attend field trips?
How will you handle sick days, school break days and snow (or other weather-related) days off?
Should the two of you consult with each other about major educational decisions? If you do not consult with each other, how will you notify the other parent when a decision has been made?
What arrangements must be made now for higher education?
PARENTING PLAN: HOLIDAYS
What special arrangements would you like for holidays? Make a list of the holidays that are important for you to share with your children?
How do you propose handling the holidays that both of you want?
PARENTING PLAN: BIRTHDAYS & CHRISTMAS
How do you propose handling your children’s birthdays/ Christmas Day? Will you share the day? Split the day? Celebrate on different days?
Will your children see other family members like cousins, Grandparents etc ?
How will you handle your birthday? The birthdays of cousins, Grandparents and other extended family members?
Parenting Plan: Extracurricular Activities
Are there particular sports or activities that are important to each of your children? Related to each activity, is one or the other of you more oriented toward that sport/activity than the other?
Are there particular sports or activities in which your children should not participate, or should not participate until a given age? If so, what are they and why?
How will you communicate with each other about your children’s activities?
How will you decide who will pay for each sport and activity?
Do you believe that the number of activities in which your children participate should be limited?
Are you comfortable with both parents attending activities? If not, how will you work out who attends when?
Parenting Plan: Spiritual Life
What kind of spiritual involvement do you want your children to have?
What level of attendance in church, synagogue, or mosque is important to you?
If you disagree with your co-parent about spiritual matters for your children, how will you resolve the disagreement?
Do you believe that your children should attend the same church, synagogue or mosque regardless of which parent is with them during the weekend? If not, should there be any requirement or restriction about attendance? If so, are there any agreements you need to make to avoid conflict?
Are there activities during the week in which you want your children to be involved?
Parenting Plan: Medical and Dental Care
What health insurance arrangements should be made for your children?
How will you pay for health expenses not covered by insurance?
How will you select medical and dental providers?
Do you want both parents to have access to medical reports, advance notice of examinations, notification of emergency care and the right to seek independent visits with care providers?
How do you feel about having the other parent attend medical appointments for your children with you?
How will you handle disagreements?
Parenting Plan: Miscellaneous Issues
Are there particular relatives or friends with whom it is important for your children to spend time and maintain a relationship? Are there people with whom it is important that they not spend time?
Are there stepparents or stepchildren with whom it is important for your children to spend time and maintain a relationship?
Understanding that all couples who have chosen to divorce experience some level of conflict and difficulty communicating, are there particular issues that need to be addressed as you develop your parenting plan?
How would you prefer the other parent contact you? Telephone at work? Telephone at home? Mail? E-mail? Fax? A third party? Other?
What restrictions would you like each other to follow in communicating with the children about the marriage or the other parent? Will you agree not to criticise the other to the children?
Will you agree not to use your children to deliver messages or information to or from the other parent? Do you want to agree not to discuss divorce issues or money issues with your children?
What other understandings or arrangements would you like to have with each other?
This is only the beginning!
Use this model as a way to jump start your intentions about your parenting plan. Tailor it to meet your particular family’s needs.
Remember that a parenting plan is a dynamic and organic document. It will need to grow with your children. Decisions that you make when your child is 2 for example, will likely have to be revisited several times before your child leaves school.
Keep your parenting plan child-focused and you will have very grateful, relaxed, positive and happier, well balanced children going forward which will be both your legacies and something you can be proud of.
Divorce is a process NOT an event.
Don’t put your child in the middle and use them as pawns to score points against your ex partner – work together and you will all come through this highly stressful time less damaged and traumatised.
If you need help my ‘Talking To Children About Divorce ‘ Conversational Cards are a very good place to start.
Click here to find out more.
In addition to these cards, I have a full range of products that can support you and your children through separation and divorce available in my online shop
This journal is designed to help children express, explore and understand some of the strong emotions that they may be feeling and to help them process the divorce for themselves. Keeping a Journal is a very simple, but powerful way to support children.
As caring adults, we can help by simply acknowledging & listening to how a child may be feeling, without trying to “fix it”.
This Journal is designed to support open and honest communication and to help children feel heard, understood and supported during a time of great upheaval.
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