A divorcing couple is often understandably eager to complete the process and begin living an exciting, independent life. There are specific negotiations, however, that must be handled in a precise, thorough manner. Certain factors like spousal maintenance, property division and debt responsibility must be carefully examined. When the married couple have children, child custody and parenting plans must also be addressed. Unfortunately, drafting a parenting plan could require the spouses to identify and resolve contingencies that might not be readily apparent.
Here are four factors that shouldn’t be ignored when developing a comprehensive parenting plan:
- Punishment and decision-making autonomy: Even if you decide not to include this information in the parenting plan, you should at least broach the subject. Would you prefer that your ex calls you before meting out any punishment? At the very least, the punishment can be communicated at the custody exchange. It makes no sense for the child to face a screen time limitation at mom’s house, but no such restriction at dad’s. Additional elements can include bedtimes, diet and body modifications as the child grows older.
- Newly purchased possessions: From clothing and hygiene products to toys and video games, do these items remain at the purchaser’s home or do they travel with the child? It might seem like a fine distinction, but it can lead to heated disputes in the future.
- After school activities: While extra-curricular activities are generally a good idea that helps children learn a new talent or gain interpersonal skills, they might lead to trouble. What if the activities agreed to by one parent seem to always fall into the parenting time of the other? The activity might be fun for the child, but frustrating for the parent. Additionally, if one parent objects to contact sports like football or wrestling, these decisions can all be worked out in advance.
- Scheduled holidays: Holidays such as birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween can be challenging to schedule. Depending on the proximity of the parents, the holidays might need to be split up or celebrated individually. It is wise not to leave these decisions until the last minute as you might need to include travel arrangements in the parenting plan
Even if the marriage ends amicably, it is important to address these challenging topics. Too often, a divorcing couple believes they can simply make decisions on the fly. Unfortunately, longstanding disputes, disagreements about parenting methods and arguments about consequences can quickly spiral out of control. Don’t hesitate to seek experienced guidance for your unique situation.