Finding a valuable resource for creating a parenting plan is important and can lessen your stress when dealing with your divorce.
An excellent resource on parenting plans that I recommend, is Ms. Joan McWilliams who has written the book “Parenting Plans for Families After Divorce.” Ms. McWilliams is a highly regarded mediator in Colorado family law.
When a couple with children divorces, the biggest consideration is to determine who will make the decisions for the children and how the children will divide their time with each parent. This is what is included in a parenting plan.
Parenting Plans are meant to memorialize your agreements without being so rigid to provide for changes in circumstances and your children’s activities.
In the book “Parenting Plans for Families after Divorce”, the Chapter on Child-Inclusive parenting plans is informative advice for parents struggling with the conflict of “sharing” their own child while respecting the needs and wants of the child.
As a child advocate, I believe the least amount of disruption for the children is best. The parents should have to go back and forth between homes every 3 nights or once a week instead of the kids.
The term for this, “nesting.” In nesting situations, parents leave the kids in the marital home, or another home that works for the family budget, and the parent who is exercising parenting time stays in the home with the kids while the other parent stays somewhere else.
Since this doesn’t often work for divorcés, at least consider a Child Inclusive parenting plan. This simply means the children get a voice in the parenting plan and an opportunity to share what they think is best for them and what they prefer.
While your children should not have final say in matters that affect their safety, their involvement in the over night schedule, exchange days and times and how they spend their spring break are very important matters for them.
As Ms. McWilliams writes, “There are decisions that cry out for your children’s participation. And, they will participate – either verbally or by their behavior.”
If you decide to involve your children, they should be given time to think about what they want and why. They should be in an environment that is safe for them – with an understanding that neither parent to going to challenge them on the choices they make or preferences they voice.
Involving a third party neutral such as a child therapist or mediator can further support this understanding and agreement to let them have their voice.