When you and your child’s other parent are divorcing or no longer in a relationship with each other, you have to think about things like where the child will live, what visitation will look like, and who will make important decisions. A parenting plan is an outline or guide that details the decisions that you’ve made about these matters.
You and your child’s other parent can agree on a parenting plan and submit it to the court, at which point a judge will probably approve it. If the two of you cannot agree on a parenting plan, then you’ll need to present arguments in court, and the judge will determine the final version of the parenting plan.
It can sound onerous to have to follow a parenting plan throughout your child’s childhood, rather than taking a more spontaneous approach to parenting. But parenting plans actually have a number of benefits for your child and your lifestyle. Take a look at what you should know about the beauty of parenting plans.
Less Need to Communicate With Your Ex
Yes, communication is a good thing, especially when you’re co-parenting a child. But realistically, breakups and divorces are emotional and often messy, and you may not feel up to having long conversations with your ex about who is taking your child this weekend or how to split up the summer vacation from school. Immediately after the divorce, hurt feelings and anger can be very close to the surface, and it may be easier for everyone if you don’t have to talk too much. And it’s not just in the immediate aftermath of the divorce that you may want some distance from your ex – when one or the other of you starts dating someone new or when one or the other of you is in the process of getting remarried are other times when hard feelings that may have dulled over time can re-emerge, and you may want some space.
What does this have to do with a parenting plan? Well, when you have a plan in place for who is going to do what and when they’re going to do it, you don’t have to communicate as much if you don’t want to. You and your child’s other parent can just follow the plan as it’s written without too much conversation. This can allow you to take care of yourself so that when you do need to communicate with your ex, such as when you’re trying to solve a problem that your child is having, you won’t be emotionally drained from communicating more than you really needed to at other times.
More Consistency for Your Child
Some adults really do thrive on a more spontaneous lifestyle. If you’re the type of person who enjoys taking life as it comes and going with the flow, following a parenting plan really may seem burdensome. But consider this: even if you don’t need a set schedule to follow, your child probably does.
Children need consistency in their lives. Set schedules help them feel more stable, more secure, and more confident. Following a routine with your child, especially in terms of when you’ll spend time with them and when their other parent spends time with them can help them trust that both their parents will still be there for them, which is an important thing for a child who has recently experienced the upheaval caused by a divorce.
Following a parenting plan doesn’t necessarily erase all spontaneity from your time with your child. You can still decide to order pizza instead of cooking dinner during a night with your child or take a spur-of-the-moment day trip during your weekend with your child. But showing up for your child on the same days and at the same times consistently can do a lot to help your child feel safe and comforted in the knowledge that their parents still care for them, which can help them get past their own trauma from the divorce.
Plan Your Own Life
Most people don’t live their own lives with total spontaneity. You probably have a job to go to, meetings and travel plans, obligations to your extended family members, friends who like to get together on a regular basis.
With a parenting plan that lays out when your child will be with you and when they’ll be with their other parent, you’ll be free to plan the rest of your events around that schedule. Unexpected things may happen – that’s always a possibility when you have children – but for the most part, you’ll know exactly when you will and will not have your child and you can schedule your other commitments in a way that avoids conflict.
In the aftermath of a divorce or breakup, you may not trust your ex very much, and they may not trust you either. No matter what the reason for the divorce, the anger and hurt feelings often lead to a lack of trust, which makes it hard to work together. And yet, when you have a child, you will still need to work together to raise that child.
A parenting plan gives you the foundation that you and your child’s other parent need to work together even when you don’t want to. And over time, if both of you stick to the plan, you’ll each be able to see that while you may no longer be committed to each other, you’re both committed to doing the best thing for your child.
Following the parenting plan is a good way to rebuild some of the trust that was lost in the divorce, which can help the two of you cooperate better with each other. After putting some time into holding up your end of the parenting plan, you might find that your ex is more willing to make changes or adjustments that work better for you, and you may be more willing to do the same for them. For example, they might be willing to switch weekends with you when you’re going to have family in town who will want to see your child. You might be willing to do the same when your ex has to travel for work. Remember, you and your ex will be raising your child together for years, and it’s likely that things will change during that time. Following the parenting plan as closely as possible will help the two of you build the kind of good will toward each other that you’ll need to adapt the plan as those changes occur.
Creating a parenting plan isn’t as difficult as you may think. A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you with the documentation and preparation you need to make a comprehensive parenting plan for your family.