When you are in the middle of a difficult divorce, it’s important to establish a solid parenting plan right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to fight over every last dish, your children deserve the structure and stability a clear parenting plan provides. As you consider a visitation schedule, think about what will work best for the kids first. Think about any school schedules, distance from each residence to activities, and time you aren’t working to come up with a good plan.
1. Make a Parenting Schedule Right Away
It’s hard enough on your kids, when both of their parents decide to split. They need stability, and a routine they can count on will help make the split a little easier on them. When you have children and you are going through a divorce, the first thing you should establish is a parenting schedule. The faster you can create a plan that works for everyone, the quicker your children will be able to adjust to their new circumstances.
2. Be Reasonable When Establishing a Custody and Parenting Arrangement
Although a contentious divorce is difficult to go through, you have to take a step back and try to be reasonable when it comes to your children. Look at the relationship your children have with each parent, and remember that children do best when they are allowed to continue to have a strong relationship with both parents. While you may hate the other person, your children love them. While you may want to point out every flaw the other parent has, this is not going to help your children when it comes down to establishing custody.
3. Clarify Your Concerns Regarding Custody
If you have legitimate concerns regarding your ex’s ability to parent your children, be clear on what your concerns are. While you may not like their parenting style, this is not a reason for your concern. On the other hand, if you are worried that the other parent has a continual drug addiction, this needs to be discussed. When you make a parenting plan and you don’t raise your initial concerns, it will be much more difficult to get a custody arrangement changed later.
4. Respect the Needs of Your Children
Children do not need to be put in the middle of your divorce. They need to know that both parents love them, and that both parents want to be part of their lives. Grilling the children about what the other parent is doing will put them in the middle. Telling your children how horrible the other parent is will only confuse them. Respect the needs of your child by enjoying them when they are with you, doing your best to parent them. What the other parent’s personal life looks like is none of your business, and you will do better to move on.
5. Consider What Your Children Want
Little children aren’t really able to verbalize what they want out of a custody arrangement, but older children can. If you have a teenager, for example, they may want to stay in the same home during the week while they are at school. They may have a very busy life, and not be interested in hanging out after school. Maybe you were an absent parent, always on the road working. While it may be hard to agree that the child should spend more time with the other parent, your sacrifice will make the divorce easier on your children.
6. Think About Your Support Network
Having children is hard, and raising them without a support network is nearly impossible. Think about your new life, and how being divorced is going to impact your support network. If you had a close relationship with your mother-in-law who always babysat, you can forget that resource. Look at the people around you, and those you believe will still be around once the dust settles from your divorce. While you can’t create a custody schedule based on support alone, it’s important that you have the help you need if an emergency arises.
7. Use One Form of Communication with Your Ex
If the two of you struggle to communicate in a civil manner, it’s important to establish one form of communication right away. Many couples utilize an online software program, where both parties can send messages, a calendar can be created, and all communication between the two of you can be recorded in one place. The court system will look at this communication when there are issues brought forth to the court, and both parties will be held responsible for what they are communicating with the other person.
8. Understand Your Rights as a Parent
When there are no concerns raised, you have the right to parent your children 50% of the time. While this may be difficult, it’s important to understand that you have the legal right to be in the lives of your children on a regular basis. Shared legal and shared physical custody entitles you to regular visitation, and decision-making in all aspects of their lives, including education and medical decisions. While the other parent may try to prohibit you from making decisions, you need to know that you have the legal right and obligation to help make these decisions. You should be attending school meetings, appointments with medical providers, and any other important events that occur on behalf of your child.
As you go through your contentious divorce, it is always best to keep the needs of the children in the front of your mind. While you may want to fight the other person for certain assets, you have to start by thinking about the type of parenting plan that will work best for your children. They need to know that you are there for them, that you are ready to take care of them, and that you love them unconditionally.
Divorce is hard enough on children; don’t make it harder by refusing to negotiate a reasonable parenting plan.