Parents who divorce or break up have many details to work out to spare their children as much stress and anxiety as possible. An important part of this involves creating an atmosphere of cooperation between both parents so the children’s needs are met without conflict and quarreling. In North Carolina, the courts typically require parents to create a parenting plan that will anticipate many issues and provide ready solutions.
If you and your ex are preparing to make your parenting plan, you would do well to think beyond the usual alternating days of custody. In fact, leaving certain things out of your plan can often lead to frustration for parents and confusion for the children.
Lay the groundwork for positive co-parenting
You may always revisit your plan as your children grow and their needs change, but if your parenting plan does not address the following questions, you may end up dealing with more stress and conflict than necessary:
- What factors should remain consistent in both homes, and which will be left up to each parent, such as bedtime, screen time or food choices?
- Will the children travel back and forth with items one parent purchases, such as clothing and shoes, or will each household have a different set of belongings for the children?
- How will you handle extracurricular activities, especially those that may interfere with one parent’s scheduled custody time?
- Which holidays will the children spend with you, and which will alternate between you and your co-parent?
- Are there special events, such as weddings, funerals or celebrations in your ex’s extended family that you should consider when creating your plan?
- What will your course of action be if your child is ill on exchange day? What if you or your ex are ill on a day when the children should come to you?
- Are you willing to include the right of first refusal for your spouse to take the children on those days when you have an appointment that coincides with your parenting time?
- When will it be appropriate for you or your spouse to introduce a new romantic interest to your children, and how will you do this?
Of course, these are the most common sources of contention in many parenting plans. Other details you may want in your plan may include such items as when a child may get pierced ears, have their own cellphone, get a driver’s license and so forth. Soon after the breakup, feelings may still be tender, but ideally, you and your parenting partner will learn to resolve any conflicts without legal interference.