How to Make a Parenting Plan Work

There's a lot that goes into a parenting plan. Following an everyday parenting time schedule, dividing time over the holidays, and driving the kids back and forth between homes are just a few of the things that go into making a parenting plan work; however, there are many other factors involved in maintaining the plan. Sometimes, it may seem like an impossible task to co-parent with your ex-spouse, but putting the effort forward to make your parenting plan work is the best thing you can do for your kids in this situation. Here are four tips for how you can make a parenting plan work.

Cover all of the bases. A parenting plan is comprised of many more elements than just your everyday parenting time plan. So many things could possibly happen in the life of your child post-divorce, so it is important to consider what could happen and plan ahead. More than just covering scheduling details, your plan will also include your agreements on how to manage your child's everyday routine and rules, how to split shared parenting expenses and oversee your child's finances, and how to make important decisions for the child about big topics like health and education. Getting all of these details into your custody plan will help to avoid confusion when you hit a bump in the road down the line.

Get it written down. While you might have made some verbal agreements about these topics, those won't often stand up in any official sense unless they are properly documented. Writing out your parenting plan and filing it with the courts is often required, but more than just to fulfill this need, having a copy of your plan will help you in the long run. As you come across questions about who may be responsible for what, your plan should have everything you agreed on all laid out for you to reference. Your parenting plan should have been created with your child's best interests in mind, so following it will help you to uphold those interests as best you can as a parent. 

Remember who it is all about. Going through a divorce or separation is a lot of work; so is your obligation to co-parent your child afterward. While it will be difficult to share such a big responsibility with someone whom you just broke up with, you must set aside your feelings for the sake of your child. A child should not have to choose between parents or to take care of a parent who is emotionally distressed. Keep your emotions in check when around your child. Encourage them to have a relationship with their other parent, regardless of your personal feelings towards that person. Be there to support your child through moments of stress or sadness, but don't expect them to be there to support you. All kids deserve the opportunity to be kids without being burdened by their parents' situation. Your parenting plan should work in such a way that aids you and your co-parent in raising your kids in the best way you possibly can. 

Talk and listen to each other. Making a parenting plan work will entail a good amount of communicating with your child and your co-parent. Depending on how old your child is, they may have a lot to say about the new family situation and various elements within your parenting plan. Listen to what your child has to say, even if it isn't necessarily what you want to hear. Acknowledge what are telling you, and if possible, take their input and put it to action. This will help them to feel like they have some say in this difficult situation. As for your co-parent, it will be important that you find some means of communication that works for you two. Written communication online is an easy and convenient way for co-parents to talk while also documenting everything that is said. Some websites are even specifically tuned to fit the needs of co-parents who are communicating about their parenting plan. Discuss how the parenting plan is working now and, as time goes by, how it may be improved to better fit the needs of your growing child. If you both have decided that you could improve your parenting plan by making a certain change to it, bring it up with your lawyer so that they can help you to make the adjustment to your official written parenting plan. 

Making a parenting plan work takes effort on the part of both parents, so commit yourself to do all you can to stick to your plan for the sake of your child. Cover your bases when you write your plan by touching on all subjects you can think of which affect your child. Get it documented, and make sure that you have access to review it anytime you may want to. Always keep your child's best interests at the forefront of your thoughts as you enact your parenting plan, even if it gets difficult sometimes. Finally, always keep your ears open to what your child is saying as well as your co-parent. Communication is an important element when it comes to making a parenting plan work, so it is important to choose the right method that best fits your situation. All in all, making a parenting plan work might feel rather difficult at times, but remembering who you're doing it for can help to make it feel worthwhile.



NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.