Parenting Plans Explained
The purpose of parenting plans is to protect the children of divorce. Today, most states require that parents submit a Parenting Plan when filing for separation or divorce.
Parenting plans explain to the courts how divorcing parents plan to care for (parent) their children. They cover every aspect of children’s lives, where they will live, their education, religion, medical care, where they will spend Christmas, birthdays, and so on.
Parenting plans also deal with unusual events and situations. For instance, medical emergencies, or what will happen if one of you is sick and unable to have your time with the children. Parents must also explain how they plan to resolve differences if and when they arise.
By requiring a parenting plan, courts can ensure that children’s interests are not neglected, during or after divorce.
The courts now recognize that children’s interests are best served when both parents contribute emotionally as well as financially to their well-being. With this in mind, parenting plans are designed to encourage cooperation rather than conflict.
First of all, both parents are involved in preparing parenting plans. This eliminates much of the frustration and conflict that occurs when one parent feels they have no say in their children’s future.
Secondly, parenting plans are backed by mediation services. Parents can be ordered to use them if they cannot agree on a plan. If agreement proves impossible, a judge may decide what is best for the children. This is a last resort but it is a strong incentive for parents to work together. However, the broad scope of parenting plans means parents can usually find something to agree on and see that it is possible, at least, to cooperate.
To encourage cooperation, parenting plans use new terms, like “parenting responsibilities” rather than “custody and visitation,” which have negative associations. They are easy to understand, use plain everyday language and are usually a work in progress – some points in the parenting plan will be harder to agree on than others.
However, now that they are part of the divorce process, there is plenty of advice available, online and off, to help parents develop a parenting plan. And parents really should try their very best to develop one together.
Parenting plans are, after all, designed to protect your children and recognize that parents, not the courts, are best placed to decide what’s best for them. By working together on a parenting plan, you and your spouse have something to gain too. By planning for events in advance, parenting plans eliminate a great deal of conflict in post-divorce life.
Copyright 2007 Caroline Mackenzie
Filed under: Parenting During Divorce