Creating a Workable Co-Parenting Plan
Nowadays, it is very common for former spouses or romantic partners to share parenting responsibilities in the wake of a divorce or split. Most often, these shared parenting arrangements are governed by a legally enforceable parenting plan. Essentially, when a child custody order is determined, a parenting plan is filed with the order or shortly thereafter. Custody refers to a parent’s rights to make major decisions concerning their child’s legal rights and medical care (legal custody) and a parent’s right to have their child reside with them (physical custody). Unless there is a solid reason for granting sole legal and/or physical custody to one parent, shared custody has now become the norm.
By contrast, a parenting plan—although legally enforceable—is not concerned with a parent’s legal rights, per se. Instead, parenting plans outline and govern the practical ins and outs of how a co-parenting relationship functions. As an experienced family lawyer – including those who practice at Robinson & Hadeed – can confirm, there are a few practical issues that are outlined in nearly every parenting plan but co-parents can address nearly any expectation they please within the context of their parenting agreement. For example, nearly all parenting plans outline which days of the year a child will reside with each of their parents. But, if they want to, co-parents can choose to address topics as varied as the responsibility of transporting a child to their sporting events to whether a child will be required to attend religious education classes.
Flexibility and Stability
One of the best things to keep in mind when creating a manageable parenting plan that has your child’s best interests at the heart of it is that the terms of the agreement should promote both flexibility and stability. Life happens. Kids need change. As a result, you’ll want to keep the terms of your agreement flexible enough that you and your co-parent aren’t arguing over every single thing that happens in a day.
At the same time, kids thrive on stable, predictable, and low-stress environments. Therefore, the terms of your agreement need to be stable enough that everyone affected by those terms can plan their lives accordingly. For example, it may be appropriate to specify that you will be responsible for making sure that your child is picked up from school. That is a stable, predictable term that will allow everyone to plan. But, if the term is inflexibly phrased to indicate that you “will pick the child up from school at 3pm daily,” there is no flexibility for you to shift pickup times if your child has an event, to delegate your duties if you are ill, etc. Avoiding tension by phrasing terms as both flexible and stable is often key to creating a workable parenting plan.