During your marriage, you probably didn't have a written agreement with your spouse regarding how you would divide the parenting duties. You just naturally fell into taking care of certain things when it came to the children. For example, you may have been the primary breadwinner while your spouse took care of a large portion of the children's daily needs and activities.
This does not mean that, now that you are going through a divorce, you must relegate yourself to paying child support and spending less time with the children than the other parent. During your divorce, you can work out a parenting plan that provides each of you with a more equitable division of time with the children.
What does a parenting plan do for you?
Other than outlining who will spend time with the children and when, a parenting plan also includes other elements required in order to create and maintain a co-parenting relationship such as the following:
- Who will make major decisions regarding the children's lives such as educational, religious and health care choices
- Who is responsible for transportation to and from each home
- Where custody exchanges will occur
- How each parent will obtain access to school records
- Whether parents will attend school-sponsored events together
- Whether parents will attend parent-teacher conferences together
- How to handle vacations
- How to handle holidays
- Whether each parent will have the right of first refusal before bringing in a babysitter
- How parents will communicate regarding the children
- How parents will resolve any disputes or scheduling conflicts
How to handle each of these issues in the parenting plan greatly depends on each parent's work schedule and the state of their relationship. You may want as much time with your children as possible after the divorce, but if you travel frequently for work or your job demands long hours and changing schedules, it may not be possible. In addition, both parents need to put the best interests of the children above their own needs and desires.
Yes, it is necessary that the parenting plan work for the parents as well, but the majority of the consideration must go to the needs of the children. A good parenting plan isn't about who "wins" or "loses." It's about making sure that the children's transition into a new life after the divorce goes as smoothly as possible for them. They also need to know that both parents want to remain in their lives and will be there for them now and in the future.