Separation is a very difficult and emotional time for many parents, even for those that are amicable. Parenting plans help to guide parents through their parenting responsibilities during a very stressful time; they are the roadmap to a successful future co-parenting.
A parenting plan is a written agreement that identifies all of the arrangements that have been made about how the children will be cared for and supported. A parenting plan can include anything that the parents want to put in the agreement and can be either lengthy and detailed or brief and summarized.
The purpose of a parenting plan is to:
- Reduce conflict and confusion for the children
- Reduce conflict between the parents
- Encourage good relationships with both parents
- Establish normal schedules with regular routines that are age appropriate for the children
Two of the main factors that determine how well children cope during a separation are how well the parents manage conflict and how well they communicate.
Throughout the relationship parents make decisions together about how they will raise their children. During a separation that relationship is in transition yet the parenting responsibilities must still be maintained. Parenting plans help to alleviate some of the confusion children feel about what is going to happen in the future and what their everyday lives are going to look like going forward. Children feel anxious and fearful when they experience their parents fighting over them.
Creating plans for co-parenting in a fair and balanced manner without the need to fight about the children through lawyers is a difficult but very rewarding process for parents.
Negotiating with the other parent may seem impossible. Many times differences, mistrust, emotions and/or the inability to communicate cause parents to lose focus on the children’s needs. It is essential at this time to separate the adult relationship issues from the parenting issues.
Mediation services exist to help guide couples through this process and others, in order to reduce further conflict and ensure that the focus remains on the best interests of the children.
Parenting plans contain information about how the children’s medical, emotional, educational, spiritual, physical and social needs will be met. The process of creating a parenting plan makes big decisions more manageable. It will also reduce conflicts in the future as many possible areas for dispute will have already been discussed and planned for.
- Where will the children live?
- What will the schedule look like?
- How will communication between the parents about school, doctors and extra-curricular activities occur?
- How will decisions be made?
- How will the relationships with Grandparents, relatives and important friends be supported?
- How will family vacations, school holidays and birthdays be handled?
It is very easy for parents to overlook the details, or not want to look at them during a separation. Creating a plan during this time will help parents identify the best interests of their children and assist all family members in moving forward. It allows both parents to consistently provide answers when children ask questions. Parenting plans provide continuity and structure for the children throughout this very unstable time.
This planning document will evolve over time and modifications and/or additions can be made as parents become more familiar with their new roles or as the needs of either the children or the parents change.
Parenting plans provide a WIN-WIN-WIN solution! Mediation can help parents create plans that are fair for the mother, the father and the children.
There is no one-size fits all parenting plan. Parenting plans can be as unique as the family and as individual as the children.
Coming to a workable agreement together; without going to court, not only saves parents a great deal of money, time and distress…it is better for the children.