One of the more challenging things that divorcing parents will have to navigate is the development of a comprehensive parenting plan. These plans are designed to account for time spent with each parent, how vacations are handled and where the custody exchange should occur. The parenting plan should be written to include contingencies with the intent of avoiding future disputes. Unfortunately, mistakes can be made leading to heated debates and emotional arguments.
Here are five tips divorcing parents should remember when drafting their parenting plan and parenting time schedule:
- Avoid vague language: This is important advice for any level of business contract, but the more succinct and clear your wording, the better. Unclear language can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication, and debates in the future.
- Recognize there might be financial changes: It is not uncommon for divorced parents to face job loss, medical emergencies, or an unexpected home repair in the future. It is wise to address contingencies regarding unemployment in the parenting plan – at least inserting language that revisions to the plan are encouraged if financial changes occur.
- Provide punishment and communication parameters: It is important that any punishment be mirrored at both homes. It sends a disjointed message if the child has an early bedtime at dad’s house but can stay up as late as he wants when at mom’s. Additionally, the parents should discuss communication preferences. Should this information be given at the custody change? Or should an immediate text or phone call be made?
- Discuss body modifications: As the child ages and matures, it is not uncommon for him or her to choose an expression through various body modifications. This can include hair coloring, piercings, tattoos, or other changes. Parents should at least discuss how these decisions should be handled in the future.
- Note any travel restrictions: It is wise to at least voice opinions or restrictions regarding long trips or international travel rather than being blindsided by the decision in the future.
With a comprehensive, thoughtful parenting plan in place, divorced parents can avoid future disputes and heated debates. While it would be impossible to assume every contingency can be included, parents can add language encouraging future discussions or revisions when necessary.