A parenting plan formalizes the agreement for how parents will manage issues regarding their children.
In particular, a parenting plan details how:
o Important decisions regarding the children will be made, typically in the areas of health, education, faith and extracurricular activities;
o Parenting time will be allocated on a regular and holiday basis;
o Conflict will be resolved; costs/payments will be allocated;
o Rights and responsibilities will be shared;
o Any other agreed upon matters will be addressed
Regardless of if the parents lived together or not, living apart and meeting daily needs of children requires some flexibility and information sharing between the parents to accommodate the needs of children.
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Living apart, both parents will be solely responsible for their own relationship and the care of the children. Only time together can facilitate a relationship. Typically, the better the relationship with both parents, the better the development of the child, even in view of different parenting styles. Just as children accommodate to different teachers, coaches, grandparents and instructors, they also can accommodate to their different parents.
Given the ages and stages of the children, and the direct care either parent provided to the point of detailing the parenting plan, some consideration and support may be necessary to equip a less involved parent with the tasks of care. This means a period of adjustment may need to be included in an effective parenting plan. Additionally, and depending on the ages/stages of the children, the parenting plan will have to accommodate changes that occur as the children age. Hence the more effective parenting plans allow for change over time, and a process to help determine when and what changes may be necessary.
When considering your parenting plan, remember you will both remain parents; children are best served with a meaningful relationship to both parents and extended kin. Your own work schedule and availability should be considered so that the parenting time between you is determined at least in part from a practical perspective; parenting plans developed between parents directly tend to be better suited, and better followed, than parenting plans developed by others on your behalf.
Where possible, sit down with your co-parent to discuss the necessary elements of your parenting plan, and don’t hesitate to get professional support if necessary. While many parents at first grieve the loss of time with their children, they also come to appreciate the extra time they have to rest and pursue their own interests.
Feel free to use my parenting plan worksheet to help develop yours!