One of the more difficult aspects of divorce is coming to terms with splitting your time with the children. It can be hard to feel like you are missing out on milestones such as the first day of school, birthdays or being present for the first lost tooth.
Even in a shared parenting arrangement, many sacrifices must be made to balance time between two homes. It’s okay to be sad about missing out on your children’s experiences, but it is equally important to remember that respecting the other parent’s time with the children is essential to helping your children feel secure transitioning between homes.
In family law matters, parenting plans, child support, and visitation rights are some of the most complex conversations to navigate. This is where the assistance of a child support lawyer can be invaluable.
Parenting Plans: Where to Start?
One of the first steps in creating a parenting plan is to determine how you and your co-parent communicate with respect to the children. Suppose your co-parenting relationship is amicable, and you are both able to make decisions based on the best interests of the children. In that case, you will likely have the most success working together to create a plan on your own.
If you have a cooperative relationship but struggle to agree on the details of co-parenting, you may benefit from mediation. A mediator can assist by providing you with common parenting strategies and ideas to make the situation work for both parties. A mediator can also assist with keeping communication productive and child-focused.
If you and the other party have a very hostile co-parenting relationship and are unable to discuss a parenting plan effectively, you may benefit from arbitration or going through the court process to have a decision rendered. No matter which method you use to determine your parenting plan, you always have the option to formalize the plan in a formal agreement or court order which will be legally binding.
In any case, a child support lawyer in Calgary can help facilitate decision-making and provide advice that can work for all parties involved.
Regular Parenting Plans versus Holiday/Vacation Parenting
When creating a parenting plan, it’s important to include as much detail as possible to ensure that expectations are set and that you can readily resolve any issues as they arise. As such, it’s always a good idea to create a regular parenting schedule that deals with the day-to-day parenting and household expectations as well as a holiday/vacation parenting plan.
For the regular parenting schedule, you may wish to include details such as:
- Which days of the week the children are with each parent, including the exchange times?
- Which parent is responsible for transporting the children between homes?
- What items will the children need to transition between homes versus what stays?
- Who will care for the children if the parent whose parenting time it is cannot care for them due to illness, work, emergency, etc?
- What are the homework and bedtime expectations at each home?
- What happens if the children miss parenting time with a parent due to their schedule, such as a friend’s birthday party?
In addition to the regular parenting schedule, some questions to consider when creating a holiday parenting plan include:
- What holidays will you continue to celebrate in your home? Have any of these differed from when you were married?
- How will you divide the major holidays?
- Will you split the days equally each year, or will you rotate with each parent having the children for the full day on even years and the other parent having them on odd years?
- How will you divide school breaks, including Spring Break, Winter holidays, and P.D. days?
- How will you divide birthdays – the children’s and the parents?
Talking About Parenting Plans With the Children
Depending on the age and maturity level of your children, you may opt to seek their input when creating a parenting plan. Parents should decide together on how to have this conversation and may even choose to sit down with the children together to discuss options and exchange feedback.
Teenagers should be able to voice their perspective on parenting arrangements but know that the final parenting plan will be created and executed at the parents’ discretion. Also, remember that toddlers need a significantly different parenting plan than teenagers, so accept that your parenting plan will be fluid and evolving as your children grow.
It might be a good idea to schedule regular check-ins with your co-parent to discuss what is working in your parenting plan and what areas you can improve in.