A parenting plan is an essential agreement that allocates parental responsibilities. Divorce with children is always complicated, and it is incredibly important to protect your children throughout every stage of the divorce. Avoiding common mistakes that are made when creating parenting plans can protect your finances, your sanity, and most importantly the health and well-being of your children.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a document submitted to the court that helps both parties with arrangements for decision-making and parenting time. Among many things, it determines who will make educational and medical decisions, the parenting time schedule during the school year and summer, who will have the children for each holiday, and child support obligations. Parents can submit a joint parenting plan that they fully agree on, a partial parenting plan with certain terms that are agreed upon, or each party may submit their own parenting plan and the Court will then decide what is in the best interest of the children and enter its own parenting plan.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
“Equalizing” Summer Vacation
Many couples use summer vacation to make up for parenting time that was not equal during the rest of the year. This may include family vacations, missed weekends, and extended visits.
However, parents often fail to plan for summer school, summer camp, athletics, etc. These often-overlooked commitments can interfere with planned vacations or time with the other parent, especially if one parent lives in a different city or state.
Planning Holidays Based on the Parents’ Wishes, Rather Than What the Kids Want
Understandably, both parents want to spend time with their kids on major holidays. As a result, some parents arrange for holiday exchanges at times that significantly interfere with the kids’ expectations about what the holiday should look like. For example, kids prefer opening presents on Christmas morning and playing with their toys, not rushing through the day to head to the next parent’s house. The same may be true on the 4th of July, Halloween, Easter, and other major holidays. Consider what impact a mid-day exchange may have on your children when making your parenting plan for holidays.
Forgetting Your Children’s Time with Friends
As children get older, they want to spend less time with their parents and more time with their friends. This hard truth is one that every parent eventually learns but is often forgotten when it comes time to create a parenting plan. Parents understandably feel the loss of time with their kids when they have to split that time with the other parent. If you fail to consider the time needed for your children’s social life, not only will you upset your children, but it will likely create conflicts with your ex-spouse over the parenting plan arrangements as well.