Things You Should Know: Parenting Plans for Separated Parents

Sharing parenting duties might have been a challenge when you were married. Worried how you will fare now that you’re getting divorced? Perhaps you are considering a child custody modification? Wondering if there is any hope for a peaceful parenting partnership?

A study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health concludes that children do better in joint custody. Researchers evaluated whether kids who split time between two houses were more stressed than those who did not. They took into consideration markers associated with stress, such as sleep and health problems, loss of appetite, etc.

Children in joint custody arrangements reported less stress-associated signs. Notably less than those who lived with only one parent.

What could be the underlying reason children are presently doing better in joint custody arrangements? Putting together a solid parenting plan that ex-partners sign and agree to uphold.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan in its most basic form is a written document that both parents sign which describes your parenting arrangement.

It often includes an outline of how ex-partners wish to raise their children after their separation. Because no two families are the same, what you may wish to outline and clarify will likely be different from what others feel necessary to state.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers provides guidelines that can serve as a foundation for your plan. And many states have a template that parents can use as a basis for creating their parenting plans.

The following are sections commonly included in many parenting plans. And can serve as a starting point for you in coming up with something that serves your family well.

Parenting schedules and co-living arrangements

Splitting time between two households requires a juggling of schedules. And a clear understanding of when the child lives in which home.

Arrangements vary from situation to situation. Some families prefer an equal split of time. For example, trading off with the child, one month in one house and the next month in the other house. Other families, due to work situations or one parent living farther away, use a weekday and weekend split system.

Along with figuring out and agreeing to an arrangement that will work for you, don’t forget to discuss the following:

  • How to split vacations and holidays
  • Where will the child stay during other special days of the year
  • Where will the child’s belongings stay
  • Will the child need two sets of everything in each house
  • How to request changes to the schedule
  • How much notice should be given

Health care, diet, and fitness

Matters concerning the health of the child are often made jointly, where both parents have equal say. Your parenting plan, however, can specify that your ex-partner has the final say on matters concerning your child’s health. If one of you travels a lot and might be out of immediate contact during a medical emergency. Then giving your ex-partner the say on health care decisions might be what’s best for your situation.

Other aspects you will want to decide on include:

  • Who will take care of the child if he or she falls ill
  • Who will schedule and follow through with yearly medical checkups
  • How will parents notify the other regarding medical emergencies
  • Who will make the call on diet and fitness
  • Will there be two diet and fitness standards
  • Will both parents promote the same diet and health habits at their respective houses.
  • How much time is your child allowed to spend on tablets, TV, or with electronics

Communication on parenting issues

Guidelines on how to communicate and the issues that need to be sorted out are important to clarify up front. Without doing so, you could end up frustrating each other with what one might consider excessive communication. Or what another might consider infrequent communication on important issues.

Together, decide on…

  • How often you should communicate
  • On issues and type of information that must be communicated
  • On the method of communication
  • How you will solve disagreements or changes to the parenting plan
  • How you can both make suggested changes to the parenting plan and the process for doing so

The advantages of a written parenting plan are manifold. You will both have clear expectations of how you can work together to provide stable homes for your child. And your child will enjoy the benefits of your united efforts.

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