Along with property division, child-related matters are typically the most challenging issues to navigate in a divorce. You and your soon-to-be ex will have to make important decisions about the children; otherwise, the judge will make them for you. You will need to draft a parenting plan to indicate the times the kids spend with each of you, where exchanges will take place and much more.
You may feel that you and your spouse get along just fine and that drafting a parenting plan will be a waste of time. However, depending on the age of your children when you divorce, there may be many years until they are off to college or turn 18, and a lot can happen to sour your relationship with the other parent during that time.
What if you worry about a set schedule restricting you?
Nobody knows what the future holds — relationships change and arrangements that worked for years may become tough to maintain. If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are fortunate enough to be on good terms, you can still remain flexible even with a formal parenting plan in place. However, should the time comes when co-parenting becomes a challenge needing more structure; you will have peace of mind from knowing that you can fall back on the exact details of the court-approved plan.
Tips to help create a practical parenting plan
When drafting your plan, it may help to keep in mind that circumstances are likely to change — one or both of you may remarry, relocate, change employment or work schedules and more. For these reasons, a good strategy may be to include a clause that will allow you to negotiate modifications when necessary. The following guidelines may help to create a basic plan:
- Let the focus be on the kids and their interests, even if it means the other parent has a few extra hours with them.
- Don’t neglect the logistics. When planning collections and drop offs, remember that kids typically have stuff to cart along — regardless of their ages. Dropping them off at school carrying clothing and toys along because the other parent will collect them after school may not be practical.
- The most challenging part of a parenting plan could be deciding with whom the kids will spend which holidays and vacations. Many years will follow, and stating that holidays and vacations will alternate from year to year leaves flexibility but protects both parents’ rights to have equal vacation and holiday time with the kids.
- Work with a calendar that shows major holidays and school terms — but use it only as a guideline for the current year. An arrangement to get together at the end of each year to draft a plan for the coming year may be a more logical step.
- Avoid using an online template to prepare a parenting plan. Your family dynamics are unique, and while it may save time now, it could cause endless frustration in the future.
If the prospect of drafting a parenting plan seems overwhelming, do not despair because thousands of other divorcing parents in Colorado and elsewhere feel the same. Fortunately, the services of experienced family law attorneys are available to provide the necessary guidance and support to draft a workable plan that is flexible and allows for future modifications when needed.