In a perfect world, marriages would never dissolve. But divorce is a reality and one that impacts everyone involved, including the children. To help children feel safe and secure during the weeks and months that follow a divorce, it is important that both parties work together to come up with a co-parenting plan.
Keeping Your Children’s Best Interests in Mind
Simply put, a co-parenting plan is a comprehensive document that outlines how parents will continue to raise their children after a separation or divorce. This document will lay out things like how much time children will spend with each parent, how decisions – both major and minor – will be made moving forward, how the information will be shared and exchanged, and more.
While there are no hard and fast rules as to how a co-parenting plan should be formatted or what information should be included, it is vitally important to approach the plan’s development with your children’s best interests in mind. To create a helpful document, all issues, emotions, and pettiness should be put aside, and the focus should remain on what is best for your children.
Things to be Included
It’s important to mention that co-parenting plans may differ from state to state. Having said that, most will include the following five clauses:
1. A Brief General Statement
The plan will typically open with a general statement that the parents will be sharing responsibilities of parenting the child or children. This includes shared decision-making and shared daily routines.
2. Outline Parental Responsibilities
In this section, parents agree to communicate on all important aspects of the children’s welfare. This can include making decisions regarding health, education, and religious upbringing.
This section can cover how you will actually arrange to time-share. This includes routine time, activity time, overnight stays, etc.
Outline how you and your ex will handle holidays and other special observances.
5. Time Period and Amendments
All co-parenting plans should mention the length of the agreement and that the plan will need to be re-examined and possibly adjusted from time to time moving forward.
Again, these are very general guidelines. Your plan can be more explicit and specific to your situation.
Getting Help with Your Co-Parenting Plan
To create the right plan for your family, it’s recommended that you get some guidance. While a lawyer can help you with specific legalities, a family counselor can help you with communication. After all, you will need to navigate your emotions and be able to hear and be heard for the best interests of your children. A therapist can facilitate healthy and clear communication.