Life is difficult, especially when you are concerned about more people than just yourself. People separate and get divorced for different reasons. Even bringing in a new baby can heighten the frustrations and difficulties present in a relationship to the point where 67 percent of couples report a decline in relationship satisfaction after having children.
My partner and I experienced this decline after having our first child. Between postpartum depression, unexpected medical emergencies, underlying communication problems, and the pressure and fear of being new parents, we both crumbled. Things grew tense between us, and we ended up separating and living in different homes.
After our fall-out, things were heated and tense between us but we prioritized our daughter enough to be able to sit down and figure out visitation outside of court. We did not want to involve the court or any child support system because we did not want to drag our daughter through a long, messy process.
Now we are on better terms and are even working things out as a couple. That being said, refiguring everything out as a single parent was hard. Finding cheap housing, refinancing to have cheaper car-notes, and even finding a way to get an insurance quote without using personal information was challenging enough.
Peacefully figuring out visitation outside of court made it less stressful to deal with the other adjustments.
Here’s How to Figure Out Visitation Outside of Court
Mediating Child Custody
The process of separating from someone that you have been with for a long time is not an easy process, made even more complex with children in the picture. Separation and divorce can be emotionally triggering for people, so bringing in a mediator to help the two of you come to an agreement about the well-being of your child can be beneficial.
Mediation is a non-adversarial process where a mediator meets with parents to help find a solution. You can bring a mediator in after things have turned into a dispute or you can bring them in beforehand to prevent a dispute.
You both will have a chance to create common goals for your child(ren) and give both parents adequate support and time with their children. In some states, mediators are appointed by the court, but if you are not going through the court, you can hire a mediator on your own without the court.
Mediation can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks depending on the number of children, the number of cases the mediator is working with, and the level of commitment to reach a mutual agreement from all parties involved.
Creating a Parenting Plan/Agreement
In times where tension is high, it is ideal to have a binding agreement in order to avoid the heightened emotions leading to one another making irrational decisions. This is ideal because children see and know more than you realize.
They are experiencing pain, anxiety, and frustration right along with you throughout this process. So if creating a plan can diminish the negative feelings your kids are feeling, why not sit down and create it? This agreement can also help you set the groundwork for a successful relationship post-divorce.
A parenting plan is a document that outlines parenting goals, schedules, contact, and responsibilities associated with raising their children. The thoroughness and length of this plan depend on the circumstances. Each family is different, and one plan format may not work for your family but it can work for another. Personalize it to work for your situation.
Having this plan in place not only makes it easier for the children but also for both parents, too. Having a set and consistent schedule makes it easier for each parent to live their lives comfortably. There are not any uncertainties on whether or not it is your weekend or not, there is no fighting over what is what, and you get a set amount of time to yourself.
Personal time is important as an adult, especially when venturing out into the world as a newly-single individual.
Considering Factors of Custody Agreements
Make sure you carefully consider all the factors that might affect different agreements when discussing custody.
1. Parent and Child Living Arrangements
When thinking about living arrangements, remember that it is beneficial to live in close proximity to one another so there are not many changes for the child. However, if this is not a possibility, then more strict guidelines for living arrangements need to be made.
You should ask these questions:
- Who gets the child full-time?
- How often will the child spend with the other parent?
- If you live close by, will there be flexibility with sleeping arrangements?
- Who has full custody and who has visitation only?
- Do you both share the same custody rights?
2. Scheduling Visitation with the Children
Your plan needs to detail how much visitation the non-custodial parent gets. If the custody is not shared evenly, usually the non-custodial parent gets around 20 percent of parenting time.
In this part of the plan, you figure out which weekend visitations will happen, pickup and dropoff times and location, and if digital (email, video chat, and phone calls) visitation will be an option throughout the regular week or during the weekends with the other parent.
Another thing that is never considered when figuring out a plan is the family outside of the parents and children. How often will your kids visit relatives since their time is already split between parents? Will opposing parents take them to visit their side of the family when it is their time with the kids or is this something that will be flexible?
3. Holidays, Summers, and School Occasions
These time periods are usually memorable and special for both parents and children so it’s important to not make it a stressful time with fighting over who gets who and when. Unfortunately, even planning this into the agreement can be difficult.
Regardless of how each parent feels, they should also remember that these moments are significant for their children too, and in most cases, the child wants to spend time with both parents. If possible, the child should have the opportunity to spend time with both parents during these times.
If that is not a possibility, then how time will be split, vacation time, gifting, and any other factors should be thoroughly discussed so things can run smoothly when it comes time.
Finalizing a Parenting Plan
Before you finish up an agreement that is tailored to the specific needs of everyone in your immediate family, you should also figure out how to handle violations to the custody agreement. Again, that depends on your personal circumstances.
Will you decide to revoke or lessen visitation as a result of a breach of the agreement? Will you bring the court into the mix because of violations? How many times does a parent get to violate the agreement before enacting repercussions?
Once you’ve figured out violations, you should get a printed version of the agreement notarized. Notaries are readily available, and you can visit certain office supply stores to get paperwork notarized. You both will sign the agreement in front of the notary, and the notary will sign and stamp after you two.
After everything is finalized, you can then sit down and explain everything to your children, but be careful of what you do and do not tell them. Hopefully, being able to come to an agreement will lead to a beautiful future relationship between parents and children.