Long-Term Planning for Divorcing Parents
When divorced parents are asked what part of the experience was hardest to confront, most will respond that the impact the divorce had on their children was most difficult. A number of studies have shown that children thrive best in two-parent households that divorce suddenly and permanently takes away. However, parents still have the ability to mitigate this negative impact with proper intervention and long-term planning.
Shared child custody, the situation most divorced parents face, presents many logistical and financial challenges for the adults. Moreover, shared custody can be emotionally upsetting the child. To minimize the likelihood of future disputes between ex-spouses and to better protect the well-being of the child, advanced long-term planning should be a large aspect of any parenting plan or custody agreement and should be executed as part of any divorce or legal separation.
Advanced planning presupposes the parties mutually and privately agree on terms that will govern the exercise of parental responsibilities. While parties do have the option of allowing Courts to decide this issue for them, a Judge can never fully know the unique needs of each family, nor have the capacity to address every potential concern of each parent.
Having an experienced family law attorney to draft an agreement and represent a parent's interests in this matter will better allow parents to account for the unpredictable and avoid pitfalls that could derail shared responsibility.
Often, the motivating factor that propels divorcing spouses to privately resolve parenting issues is the desire to shield their child from unnecessary conflict. With that principle in mind, as well as an eye toward the unique needs of a particular family, each party should first evaluate what issues related to parenting responsibility are most important, such as how or when exchanges will take place or maintaining a strong voice in any decision related to the child. In addition, the following issues should at least be discussed, if not specifically included, in any agreement:
- Requirements and methods of updating parent contact information;
- Methods of communication between the child and parent with less parenting time;
- Integrating extracurricular activities into the parenting time schedule, and how to allocate the associated costs; and
- Engaging in certain behavior — i.e. taking drugs or exposing the child to certain people such as a new girlfriend or boyfriend.
Clearly, the bulk of any parenting plan agreement will be related to how much parenting time each party will receive. While the standard arrangement and the one most likely to come from a Court is every other weekend and one weekday evening with the non-primary caretaker, the needs of the parents and the child should dictate which schedule makes the most sense.
Child exchange is an area rife with potential conflict. If this is a concern, details as to when and where the child will be dropped off and picked up should be clearly outlined. Further, acceptable ways to notify any needed changes to this plan should also be addressed.
Each parent will understandably want to spend all major holidays with the child. Hence, a compromise of some sort must be made. Typically, divorced parents alternate major holidays and schedule extended time with the non-primary caregiver over the summer break. Specific details on how long a summer visit will be, when the visit will begin, and how one will notify the other party of any necessary changes should be worked out to avoid future misunderstandings.
Raising a child is expensive, and the two areas that generate most of the costs are medical care and education. Deciding who will pay for insurance premiums, tuition and college expenses, and any reimbursements from the other parent should be thoroughly addressed to minimize the possibility of fights over financial contributions.
Finally, the needs of the child will change over time, and he or she may even want to live with the other parent at some point. Thus, procedures for modifying parenting responsibilities, including what circumstances call for modification and how much Court involvement the parties want, should also be considered.
Get Legal Advice
Providing for the needs of your child in the wake of divorce is a concern all parents have, and an experienced Barrington family law attorney can help you secure a custody arrangement that protects you and your child. The Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. knows how to help parents form cooperative agreements, and fight for a parent's rights in Court if necessary. Do not hesitate to contact the office for a free initial consultation.