Children and Conflict Series Part 7

Why Parenting Plans?

Written parenting plans provide children and parents with predictability and consistency and can prevent future conflict. Open discussion and cooperation between parents is essential for success. Courts prefer that parents reach their own agreements about parenting time, because doing so makes them more likely to cooperate as their children grow up.

Raising children is challenging. When parents live in separate homes, the challenges are greater because relationships are more complicated. Sometimes parents disagree about how much time children should spend with each parent.  Decisions about parenting time depend on many things, particularly the age and maturity of the child.

Unless special circumstances exist, preserving a healthy and ongoing relationship between children and both parents after divorce or separation is of greatest importance. Positive involvement with both parents promotes the child’s emotional and social development, academic achievement, and overall adjustment. Adult children of divorce describe the loss of contact with a parent and conflict between their parents as the most painful part of divorce or separation.

Children differ in how long they are comfortable being away from each parent. Some children like spending more time at one home, while others move between homes easily. Parents may need to accept disruption of their own schedule and spend more or less time with the children than they prefer in order to maintain the children’s sense of security and well‐being.

When creating a plan, parents should think about the child’s relationship with each parent.  Adjustments to the plan will be necessary as the children age – what works for a 2 year old is not likely going to work for a 12 year old.  If a parent has never been a part of a child’s life or hasn’t had contact with the child for an extended period, parenting time should start slowly and gradually increase as the child adjusts and feels comfortable.

If parents don’t agree on custody and parenting time, the judge will evaluate the case, decide custody, and order a parenting arrangement the judge finds is in the children’s best interests.

Important Parenting Plan Questions:

  1. How old is the child?
  2. How mature is the child?
  3. What is the child’s personality?
  4. How strong is the child’s attachment to each parent?
  5. Does the child or do the parents have any special needs?
  6. What are the child’s relationships with siblings and friends?
  7. Are parents’ homes close enough to maintain regular and frequent contact?
  8. How flexible are the parents’ and child’s schedules?
  9. What childcare arrangements are needed?
  10. How and where will exchanges take place?
  11. How will transportation be provided?
  12. How well can the parents communicate and cooperate?
  13. What are the child’s and the parents’ cultural and religious practices?
  14. Are there any parental fitness concerns, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health problems?
  15. What is each parent’s ability and availability to care for the child’s needs?
  16. Will the parent be able to exercise the parenting time consistently?

Children Benefit when Parents:

  • Support the child’s relationship with the other parent.
  • Encourage with regular contact with the other parent (by phone, email, text, etc.) & assist as needed.
  • Keep predictable schedules, are prompt and have children ready for transfers.
  • Manage parenting exchanges without conflict.
  • Allow “important” items such as favorite clothes, toys, and security blankets to travel between homes.
  • Follow similar routines for meals, bedtime, and homework.
  • Enforce similar rules and discipline.
  • Support contact with both sets of grandparents and other extended family.
  • Are flexible so the child can take part in special family celebrations and events.
  • Give as much advance notice as possible about special occasions or necessary schedule changes.
  • Provide the other parent with travel dates, destinations, and places where the child and the parent can be reached when on vacation.
  • Establish workable and respectful communication with the other parent
  • Plan their vacations around the child’s school calendar and regularly scheduled activities.
Source: Planning for Parenting Time: Arizona’s Guide for Parents Living Apart.

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