A judge in a divorce case involving child expects at least some identified parenting plan before entering a judgment of divorce created during a Mediation or Collaborative Divorce. For the benefit of the whole family, including the child and the parents, the more specific the parents can make the parenting plan, the better it will be for the family.
Here are 6 benefits to creating a good quality parenting plan.
- Provides the Child with Structure and Stability
A parenting plan must be in place to ensure that the children know where they will be at any given time. This structure is necessary. It is especially crucial for younger children. Most states, including Oregon, have recommended parenting plans in place that are put together by the state. These are usually age specific. Parenting plans should be easy to follow and understand and explain the needs of the children at any given age. Children are better when they know that they will have structure and stability in their lives.
- Minimizes Arguments between Parents
An organized parenting plan also benefits the parents. It helps to minimize any arguments that may occur about transitions, for example. A specific parenting plan will identify when dates, times, and places for transitions. A specific parenting plan will also identify where children will be spending important events, such as holidays and birthdays. All of which is outlined in advance. This is where your collaborative team or mediator can be beneficial, as the team or the mediator can help you get as specific as necessary for your family.
- Allows for Flexibility in Schedules
In addition to identifying specifics, the parenting plan should also allow flexibility for the family to address unexpected events. For example, the plan could allow changes if both parents agree. There are several ways to address these issues. Parents can work closely with their collaborative team and mediator to ensure flexibility in the program.
- Addresses Any Custody Issues
One of the crucial things that a parenting plan will do is address custody issues. In many cases, joint custody is appropriate. That is where the parents share all decision-making responsibilities for the children. However, in situations where the parents simply cannot get along, or it’s not appropriate for one parent to make any custodial decisions, that issue can be outlined in the parenting plan. However, both parents should know that there are statutory rights that the non-custodial parent retains, such as the right to educational records, medical records, and emergency rights. (For a full explanation of rights, please review the statute, ORS 107.154).
- Addresses Safety Issues
An appropriate parenting plan will also address any safety issues that may be relevant for the family. For example, the parenting plan may address who should not be around the children or when and how a new romantic partner can be introduced. The parenting plan must ensure the child’s safety and give the child time to get used to the fact that their parents are now divorced and that she/he is living in two homes.
- Determines Child Rearing Decisions
The parenting plan can also identify where the child will go to school. It could address issues such as social media or the use of electronics, an especially pertinent topic given social limitations associated with COVID-19. The parenting plan must address how to resolve disagreements between the parents.
Overall, a good quality parenting plan will give the children structure and the parents structure. And, with the help of the Collaborative Divorce team or a mediator, the parents can put together a parenting plan that is sufficiently structured to meet the family’s needs and flexible enough to meet the family’s needs.