How Do You Create a Strong Parenting Plan?
So far, you and your spouse have been able to work through your divorce with dignity and respect. You don’t need spousal support and you’ve agreed on how to divide all marital property. When it’s time to create a parenting plan, however, things change.
Instead of feeling generous and cooperative, you’re now worried, anxious, and even protective. You don’t want to use terms like “sharing” and “visitation” when it comes to your children. Although you and your spouse can no longer be together, you love your kids as much as ever and the thought of that precious relationship being abbreviated by divorce is distressing – for you and for them.
Child custody and visitation are the most emotional and potentially contentious issues in divorce. Putting together a strong parenting plan can help both non-residential (non-custodial) parents and children by defining expectations and establishing a reassuring sense of routine. This blog provides five tips for creating a parenting plan that is in your child’s best interests and stands the test of time.
Make Your Plan as Detailed as Possible
The best and most effective parenting plans are detailed, thorough, and well thought-out. You and your spouse agree on:
- Which parent the kids will live with (known in Washington state as the “primary residential parent”)
- How much time they will spend with each of you
- How decisions will be made
- How disputes will be resolved
- How the children will be disciplined
If you and your spouse remain on good terms, you can make informal agreements that deviate from the parenting plan. If your relationship is difficult, this court-approved plan will act as a failsafe that defines your respective rights and obligations
Talk About Expenses
Money is a contentious issue even for couples who aren’t divorced. Your parenting plan can prevent future disagreements by indicating how expenses will be shared. Your Washington family law attorney can also help you include information like medical insurance, life insurance, and special needs trusts for the future care of the children.
Plan for The Future
A strong parenting plan will address the future as well. The plan you follow when the kids are in preschool will not work when they are teenagers, so try to be as far-sighted as possible. Your family law attorney will be knowledgeable about the age-specific plan changes and can help you prepare accordingly.
Anticipate the Unexpected
You know from experience that life can throw us curveballs. When it comes to the wellbeing of your children, leave as little as possible to chance by planning for different scenarios that can unexpectedly arise. For example, what happens if one parent becomes seriously ill during their parenting time and the other one is away or otherwise unavailable? Do the children stay with your sister and her husband or your former spouse’s parents? Reaching an agreement now will prevent stressful arguments later.
Be Willing to Compromise
When you’re negotiating a parenting plan, remember that the best interests of your children are the first and foremost concern. The children want and deserve to spend as much time as possible with both parents and, to make this possible, you may have to agree to conditions that you don’t personally like. As long as you and your former spouse let the wellbeing of the kids take priority over any personal issues between you, the resulting plan can work for everyone.
Contact a Seattle Child Custody Attorney
Although you and your spouse are no longer together, the kids deserve to have a loving and close relationship with both of you. At ZafiroLaw, attorney Katrina Zafiro will guide you in creating a Washington parenting plan that clearly defines rules, boundaries, and expectations while keeping your children’s best interests in mind. To schedule a consultation with her today, call 206-547-9906.