When you and your ex share children, the importance of having a carefully designed co-parenting plan cannot be stressed enough. While an attorney will cover all the basics - housing, medical, parenting time, etc. - there are some further provisions you may choose to consider.
Your parenting plan acts as a point of reference for what is expected when various difficult parenting decisions come up. While some of these issues you address may never become a bigger problem, having guidelines in place protects the best interests of your children and reduces conflict between you and your co-parent. Though it may seem excessive to plan, the most important thing to remember is to keep every provision centered on upholding your children’s well-being.
You and your co-parent know your children best. While it should be tailored to the unique needs of your family, we have provided a few suggestions for your parenting plan that the law often leaves out. These are suggestions - from a co-parenting perspective - that can help prevent additional discord after the divorce is finalized.
Here Are 4 Things You May Want To Include In Your Parenting Plan:
1.Establish Boundaries For New Partners
An important part of your parenting plan is considering the relationship your co-parent’s new partner will have in your children’s life. This includes a timeline for when they will be introduced. We typically suggest waiting six months to a year of dating before introducing children to a new significant other. Read more about this here.
This is also a good time to ask, What role will this person play? A new partner’s role usually includes childcare and transportation. Rarely should they make decisions that involve parenting your children. Include boundaries in your co-parenting plan so that your ex’s new partner cannot overstep in their relationship with your children, which can leave you feeling alienated. These can include not posting your children on their social media, or attending your children’s extracurricular activities.
Keep in mind that only you and your ex are your children’s parents, so it is important to establish boundaries in the case that a new partner is introduced into their lives.
2.Address Major Conflicting Parenting Styles
At some point or another, you and your co-parent will not see eye to eye. Though inevitable, it is important to distinguish small disagreements from major discrepancies. These are issues that will have an adverse effect on your children’s physical and mental health such as bedtime, electronics, schedules, and nutrition. Consider the following:
[Home 1] The child is not allowed to have any snacks before bed.
[Home 2] The child is hungry before bed, but does not ask for a snack because they know they are not allowed to have one at their other parent’s house.
As you can see, even though the child is hungry, they do not ask for a snack because of the rules in Home 1. In this example, the child’s physical needs are not being met due to conflicting parenting styles in each home.
You can address these types issues in your co-parenting plan by committing to consistency in both homes. Of course, this does not mean allow your children to raid the pantry at any hour of the night, but make it possible for your children to openly communicate their needs, no matter which parent’s home they are in.
3. Create Guidelines For Communication Between Co-Parents
When you decide to co-parent, communication is your best asset. A great way to establish open communication in your parenting plan is by including a weekly check-in via email. This check-in creates a way to keep your co-parent in the loop about any nonemergency updates to your children’s scheduling, medical appointments, or education.
We recommend limiting communication to email versus text message because it will push both you and your co-parent to remain objective. During disagreements, communicating via email will prevent further conflict because you will be forced to stop and think about what you are planning to type. If you text your co-parent from a place of anger or frustration, you are more likely to respond to attacks with emotion, rather than logic.
4.Allowing Either Parent To Seek Emotional And Psychological Needs For Children
The law sets guidelines that protect your children’s physical well-being, but what about their emotional well-being? When creating your co-parenting plan, be sure to consider how divorce will affect your children emotionally. They may be confused, frustrated, or even angry. This can result in future behavioral problems and create a rift between parent and child.
In order to have a co-parenting plan that is psychologically sound, add in services such as counseling or coaching if you see your children struggling to cope. We've seen it one too many times the children are emotionally struggling and one parent won't allow that child to seek services for their needs. This weighs heavily on the child's self-esteem and impacts their confidence and how they will approach life and relationships.