Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - A Nationally Certified Professional Mediator and Business Advisor - www.lodge-co.com
Many children grow up in two homes, parents that separate and divorce or parents that never marry and separate create a new need - a parenting plan. The children end up with two parents with two homes, and sometimes no set rules between the parents on how to be parents to the children.
The first thing that needs to happen when people separate with children involved, they should immediately sit down with a Mediator and put together a parenting agreement to set the rules in dealing with the children's care and addressing issues when raising children after a broken home.
What does a parenting plan do? Let's go over the plan and the items that need to be addressed and put into a written parenting plan.
Custody and Decision Making - This is a decision making process, who will have legal custody, will it be joint or one individual. The primary physical custody, day to day decisions, major decisions. Who will be responsible? It answers what will happen when the child is with a parent and something happens, emergency decisions, etc.
Parenting time / Visitation Schedules - This is where you decide on when the parents will have the children, where the children will be at, picking up the children and dropping them off, what days, weekends the children will be with the parents. If certain visitation rules need to be set because of abuse or other issues that need to be addressed. But the rules are set and followed by each parent, it makes it a lot easier.
Major Holidays and Vacation Periods - The parents discuss the holidays when the children are to spend time each parent. Most holidays are given every other year, they try to break up the holidays so that each parent get about the same number of holidays to make it fair to both parents. It also looks at birthdays, mothers, and Father’s Day. Again, setting fair rules for each parent to abide by and feel they have the children fairly for the holidays. There is usually some negotiations on certain holidays, it is part of the process.
Transportation Arrangements - Here is where you set rules on transporting the children, who can transport and pick up, and when traveling internationally and getting approvals from the other parent before a child can leave the country.
Schedule Conflicts - There will always be changes in schedules due to many different reasons. There needs to be some rules set in notifying the other parent of a conflict in the schedule, an emergency, and how to communicate a conflict to be fair to the other parent.
Communication and Access - When I am mediating a parenting plan I pay very special attention to how the parents will communicate with each other as they are parenting. Methods of communication, frequency, having access to the child when away, even setting up special parenting apps for the parents to communicate with. I address the issue of parents talking about the other parent in front of the children, good and negative communication. I write a whole section on the communication process. Communication with the children and between parents must continue and have rules. You are still parents and the communication has to continue nicely.
Child Support - Both parents, with the help of the mediator, will devise a child support financial plan to help the other parent with the financial care of the children. Insurance costs will be decided, co-pays and the splitting of the costs between parents, special events such as summer camps etc. costs are discussed and agreed to.
There are other issues that the mediator will address as he works with each parent to build a solid parenting plan that will focus on the children's needs and the parents ability to deliver as separated parents. If there is an issue of sexual or physical abuse that is brought up it may be the responsibility of the mediator to report the abuse.
In some of my agreements I ask that the parents go to counseling or parenting classes because there is a need to resolve issues. Remember, the parenting plan is designed for the care of these children you have brought into this world, their care, mental stress, and love from both parents. And yes, there are rules that make the process of caring for the children and their stability.
Mediation is the best way to get to a good parenting plan, an agreement that both parents think is fair to both parents. Parenting takes a lot of plan, so sit down with a mediation and put a plan in place. It will make the separation easier when there are rules.
If you need a parenting plan, let me know by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.