It’s sometimes difficult for parents to remember that it was their choice to pursue divorce and not their children’s. The first step toward doing what’s best for children stuck in the middle of a divorcing couple is to develop a parenting plan that has the kids’ best interests at heart.
Set Firm Expectations
To make a parenting plan that works best for your children, you have to set firm expectations. That means both parties, the mother and the father, must go above and beyond to have a very clear agreement in place regarding but not limited to:
• detailed time-share schedules including holidays
• financial guidelines like share of health care and education costs
• which parent makes what decisions
• any other special provisions
The more detailed your plan, the less room for genuine misunderstanding or squabbling over semantics later. Fewer problems later means less stress for both parents as well as the children.
Create an Acceptable Schedule
The custody and visitation schedule is a major part of any parenting plan. It needs to not only meet state guidelines, but it also must absolutely put the children’s needs and best interests before the mother’s and father’s.
The schedule must take in to consideration the time split based on each child’s age, but also factors like schedule changes over summer break, events and activities, and vacations.
Remember to Put Your Children First
Once you have an acceptable parenting plan with the time-share schedule, it’s time for both parents to do their best to follow the agreed upon plan. This plan only works if both parents do their best to follow it as closely as possible.
However, both mother and father need to remember, the parenting plan was created with the intent of making the divorce as smooth as possible for the children involved. It was not created with the intent of trying to police your ex-spouse and attack them whenever they stray slightly from what’s stated in black and white.
Unless you are in a high-conflict situation where you might need to follow every word of the agreement to a T, both parents need to understand that it serves their children best if before taking action, each parent asks, “Is this what’s best for the children?”
For example, your agreement might state you need to drop your children off at your spouse’s residence at 7:00 AM Saturday morning. If your spouse lives 15 minutes away, that’s not a major problem. If your spouse however rented a beach hours 3 hours away for a couple of weeks, dropping off your kids at an unattended home, or waking them up at 3:30 AM in order to drive them to the shore, isn’t really in their best interest.
Both parents need to use sound judgment in situations like this, and remember the agreement is in place for the benefit of their children and not that the children need to bend to meet the agreement.
The most important thing for parents to remember when developing their custody schedule, drafting the parenting plan, and following the agreement, is to always put their children first. If the agreement puts your children in a bad situation, then amendments might need to be made to prevent that happening again.
Parents should use their best judgment when those situations appear. Though you don’t have to work together on your marriage, you do have to work together on raising your children.