Here are some ideas for a Parenting Plan to Protect Children in Divorce.
I have one overarching goal when working with divorcing clients that have children – keep the children out of the middle and minimize the overall impact on their lives! Focusing on the children helps my clients create an environment where divorce becomes a transition, rather than a trauma, for the children. And serendipitously this focus on the children’s needs often helps clients work through other divisive issues simply because they’re focused on their children’s best interests (rather than their feelings about their soon to be ex).
Building a comprehensive, proactive parenting plan takes some time, but it is an investment in reduced conflict for the remainder of the co-parenting time (which can be 10 – 15 years with younger children). I help my clients create a customized parenting plan that is specific to their children’s needs and provides the sense of order and consistency that children crave.
By providing clients with a safe, constructive space to address their parenting issues we achieve two goals:
- We provide clarity regarding how they will handle typical parenting issues.
- We significantly reduce ongoing friction that undermines positive co-parenting.
It is important to balance structure with flexibility in a good parenting plan. So we include enough detail so that both parents and children know what to expect on a consistent basis (and the parents aren’t constantly having to negotiate with each other) while also allowing for real-world flexibility for changes that arise. My clients often utilize a Flexibility Clause which states that “any aspect of the parenting plan can be changed as long as both parents agree in advance” so that they can make necessary changes as needed as long as they agree ahead of time.
Some of the aspects of a comprehensive parenting plan include:
- Weekly Schedule – It is preferable to have a consistent schedule so that the children get used to being with each parent on specific nights (especially weeknights).
- Custody Terms – We cover both Physical Custody (supervision of the children) and Legal Custody (decision-making for educational, medical and religious issues).
- Holidays and Vacations – Especially the big ones such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc. as well as spring and summer breaks.
- Activities – It’s important that both parents support all the activities that the children are involved in and the best way to do this is for the parents to agree in advance.
- Consistency between the households – children crave consistency and while the households may be different, it’s helpful if homework routines, bedtimes, etc. are consistent.
- Interaction with romantic interests – I help my clients set up a process for deciding when they would introduce romantic interests to their children.
There are many additional aspects to a good parenting plan and I’ve covered many of them in my three part YouTube series. Please feel free to check out these videos if they would be helpful in creating an environment that minimizes the impact of divorce on your children.