If you’re a parent considering divorce, you’re likely concerned about the effects a divorce may have on your children. While divorce might be the best option for your family, it introduces big life changes for kids of all ages. Co-parenting is no easy feat. However, it is doable. Sharing common ground, empathy, patience and open communication are avenues to working together for the sake of the children.
Child custody can be resolved through negotiations between the parents. In New York, if there is not a court order for child custody, then both parents have equal rights to physical and legal custody. Many family law attorneys encourage parents to adopt a thoughtful and creative parenting plan that outlines how the children will be raised after separation or divorce.
What to consider when making a parenting plan
A parenting plan addresses the day-to-day and big-picture issues involved with raising children and can go a long way in creating a stable and loving environment. It should have enough detail to be useful but leave room to be flexible and realistic. Four essential elements include:
- Parenting time. Developing a joint parenting schedule is a necessary first step that can help your children adjust to their new circumstances. The plan should be specific about living arrangements and include details about how the children will travel between the two homes along with drop-off and pick-up times and locations.
- Holiday and vacation time. You will need to address where your children will spend birthdays, significant holidays, family events and vacations. Some parents choose to alternate holidays to ensure fairness for both parents and children.
- Rules. Although each parent should establish their own house rules, there may be times when it’s beneficial to have consistent rules. Similar rules regarding bedtime, curfews, electronics and homework can make the transition between homes easier.
- Expenses. Devising a formula for how to divvy up costs can be a challenge. Establishing a budget for things like babysitting services, extracurricular activities, clothing and birthday gifts may help parents avoid financial conflict. Parents should also consider long-term expenses like braces, cars and college tuition.
The most important element of a parenting plan is that it reflects the interests and needs of the children. Parenting plans establish structure, agreements and commitments while contributing to a predictable and consistent schedule for children.