Early during the divorce or separation process, parents will face the issue of how to handle shared parenting time. In most cases, parents strive towards equality in parenting time so that the children can spend time with both parents. The key is to take into consideration each parent’s work schedule, the children’s school schedules, and the children’s extracurricular activities.
Each of you may have different ideas about the perfect parenting schedule. Usually, both parents will need to adjust their own schedules to accommodate the final plan. Compromising will make sure that the needs of the children are met. Parenting plans are not a one size fits all approach, the plan should be realistic and work for both the parents and children.
Life happens. Situations arise where one parent may be late or sick, or unavailable. This is a normal part of life and not a reflection of a parent’s ability to co-parent. Create a backup plan so that a family member, babysitter, or co-parent can serve as a caregiver. Mediation can help design the perfect parenting plan, but keep in mind, even the best-laid plans can go awry.
Living closer to your co-parent or the children’s school is ideal. Often the parents will want to move as far away as possible from the other parent, but this will impact your parenting time. Closer is better, less than 20 miles apart is often recommended. It is important not to affect the other parent’s parenting time because of a long transition between homes or school. Most often, a move can cause co-parenting conflict to arise unnecessarily.
Just because a parent picks the “perfect” parenting schedule on paper does not mean it works in real life. In mediation, parents usually try out a few parenting schedules before we draft the terms of an agreement. It is not smart to formalize a plan that simply will not work. Take some time, give it a month, and see how it goes. Make changes and tweak along the way. The rush to get something “in writing” will not help your family in the long run.
Make wise decisions early on. If a parent is sleeping on a friend’s sofa, it is time to get their own place. Before a parent signs a lease or buys a new house, carefully consider the accommodations. Often a parent will quickly sign a lease for a one-bedroom apartment or studio loft that will not accommodate the children. Slow down, and take your time. Consider that your children will spend overnights with you in the new location, even if it is temporary.
Communication between co-parents can be tricky, but you will need to receive and share information about the children consistently. How much is too much or too little? Most communication should be limited to informing each other about the children’s activities and medical or other appointments. Withholding important information from the other parent will always cause conflict. Communication should only be made directly to the other parent, not through the children.
Using a mediator instead of the court system to determine the terms of your custody and child support arrangement is the most cost-effective route. Both parents can make decisions about the family together and keep the family out of court. Most parents do not need attorneys or judges to make parenting decisions for them. Be proactive and mediate first.
If you are ready to make plans for yourself and your children’s future, give mediation a try. It is a proven method that can help you and your family move forward peacefully. Your family does not belong in court. If you would like to learn more about how mediation can work for you and your family, schedule a consultation here: Clement Mediation