Each family's dynamics are unique, and no foolproof co-parenting plan exists that will suit the circumstances of all families. When drafting a parenting plan, your goal will be to establish a written document that will detail how you and your ex-spouse agree to raise your children after the divorce. With the focus remaining on the best interests of the children, this plan will include the specific times the children will spend with each parent, who will make decisions and how you will handle disputes.
To get the process of drafting a co-parenting plan going, you and your ex may choose to each propose a schedule and then negotiate the manner in which you can combine both plans into a workable program. There are other manners in which an adequate co-parenting plan can be achieved as well. The aim is to acknowledge and accommodate the parenting styles of both parents while never losing focus of the best interests of the children.
Regardless of what you and your former spouse use as a base to build from, there are five important clauses to include:
- The mutual agreement: You and the other parent can state your commitment to cooperate and share responsibility for day-to-day parenting and decision making. Also, many parents often agree in this clause to never commit any actions that could damage the relationship between the children and the other parent.
- The decision making responsibilities: The providing parent typically handles any day-to-day decisions, while decisions important to the children's welfare, such as health care, education and religion, normally involve input from both parents.
- The time-sharing details: You can specify all the times that the children will spend with each parent, determining the time to devote to activities and a routine for overnight stays.
- The special times: You can list allowed changes to routines during overnight stays on holidays and special observances.
- The trial period: A first co-parenting plan is not binding. When drafting it, keep in mind that revisions and modifications can take place after a pre-determined trial period. You can include a clause indicating how you will settle disputes -- be it through communication or mediation.
Older children seem to be more accepting of parenting plans if they have a say in its drafting. Furthermore, you can minimize anxiety in your kids by establishing a clear and predictable schedule that will facilitate adaption to the new dynamics. The prospect of drafting a plan that will accommodate the needs of children of various ages along with the schedules of both parents may seem overwhelming. Fortunately, you can utilize the skills of an experienced family law attorney who has guided many other divorced parents in California through this process.