You don't have to like the divorce process, but you do have to go through it if you end your marriage. Most people just want to get it over with as quickly as possible so they can put the ordeal behind them. Unfortunately, going too fast could mean missing important details that could make your future as a co-parent go more smoothly.
Planning for co-parenting is not like the 100-yard dash where you put all of your energy into making it to the end as quickly as possible. Instead, it's more like a marathon in which you pace yourself because you know that you still have miles to go. In order to make it through the years ahead in which you will continue to have contact with your ex-spouse as you raise your children together, you need a solid plan and creating that plan takes time.
A parenting plan is more than just schedules
Of course, your parenting plan needs to include schedules for visitation, holidays and other occasions, but it can be so much more than that. Below are some issues to consider when deciding what provisions to add to your parenting plan that may just make life more pleasant for everyone:
- You may not think that a divorce is the time to acknowledge the good things about the other parent, but actually, this is the perfect time. For example, if one of you is better with keeping track of doctors' appointments, parent-teacher conferences and the like, why not let that parent handle the scheduling?
- Take the time to consider what will realistically work for your family. The goal is not to design your parenting plan around "the perfect scenario," but instead to create a plan based in reality. If your work schedule keeps you from attending your kids sporting events on a certain day, don't agree to be there.
- Create a master calendar that outlines which parent does what and when, along with a process for discussing and agreeing on any changes. Each of you should have a current and updated copy at all times. It may also help to make a contingency plan for emergencies that don't allow either of you to fulfill a calendared obligation, since life does not always go as planned.
- Agree on a routine for the children. You and the other parent don't have to do everything the same way, but agreeing to some consistency between the households will more than likely be better for the children. Similar routines help create stability for the children, which could make the transition less traumatic; plus, neither parent is "the bad guy" when it comes to keeping the children on task.
Two other crucial elements to any successful co-parenting venture are good communication and the ability to compromise. Each parent should feel free to come to the other with concerns or conflicts, and each of them should be willing to bend when the circumstances warrant it.
Making sure your plan meets the court's approval
After going through all of the work required for the creation of a plan that benefits your children and upon which you both agree, it would be disappointing if the court failed to approve it. The primary concern of the court will be that your agreement reflects the best interests of the children and does not violate any current law or public policy.
Understanding what that means in your case may not be easy to determine. Fortunately, you can seek advice and guidance in putting a plan to paper that will satisfy you, the other parent and the court. After all, the most important thing is that you and the other parent continue to be loving and supporting parents regardless of the fact that you are no longer married.