Parenting plan – What is it?
Parenting plan, sometimes called a time-share plan is a contract between parents regarding how much time and when each child will spend with each parent and who will make an important decision regarding children’s education, health, welfare ext.
What does a responsible parenting plan consist of?
Here are the top ten elements of a parenting plan.
Parenting plan- children location
- Where will the child primarily live? This will be the child’s address for purposes of school. It is where the bulk of the child’s possessions will reside as well. The child may wish to call the other parent’s home their home as well, but that should be left up to them.
- On a monthly basis, where will the child be sleeping? Is there are regular schedule they will follow so they, and you, will always know where they will be at night and where they will wake up?
Parenting plan- children’s welfare
- Who will be responsible for the child’s welfare during the week? Who will be responsible during weekends? There can be no gaps in this schedule. One of the parent should be in charge certain time . Children of almost any age (other than tiny babies, who may be unaware of these changes) must know who is in charge during every waking hour and while they are asleep.
Parenting plan- children’s transportation
- Who is responsible for transporting the children to and from their primary residence? How will they be transported and what happens in the event of a miscalculation? How late is too late to make a transition from one parent to another? How will unanticipated situations be handled?
- What new family traditions will be established for dealing with birthdays, vacations and holidays important to the parents and children?
- What issues will never be discussed with the children? What restraints should the parents agree to with respect to communicating in front of the children? One universal rule followed by good families and all courts: No disparaging remarks are made about a parent in front of the children. Third parties, i.e. other family members and friends, must be encouraged to follow this rule as well.
- A second universal rule: adult financial issues will not be discussed with the children. This rule does not apply to the discussion of children’s allowances.
- How will disputes between parents be resolved? Is there a trusted family member who would agree to mediate, i.e. facilitate an agreement of the parents, in a dispute? Will the parents use a “special master”, a hired expert to resolve issues? Can or should the parents go to a lawyer for assistance in drafting modifications to court orders? A good parenting plan will anticipate problems and provide procedures for solving them.
Parenting plan- possible future changes
- How will future changes in circumstances, e.g. moving away, the increasing involvement of children in activities of their own, be handled? The plan should not attempt to address every possibility, only provide a procedural outline of how to cope with any life changing issue that may arise.
- The family mission statement. This is the philosophical part of parenting plan: what is the spirit of your agreement? Examples of what it may include: a) a desire to nurture the children and make them feel safe; b) a desire for as much stability as possible; c) a desire to see the children achieve their maximum potential, d) a desire that the children be assisted and encouraged to become well adjusted, honest, and happy people, etc. Some people may wish to add to d) …happy Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist people. Examples of what should not be included: a) a desire that the children eventually live with their father or mother or uncle (this may be unreasonable or unlikely); b) a desire that the children never date a person of some other race (too narrow and constraining a focus); c) a desire that the children eventually become geriatric orthodontists (too specific). This part of the process should be done in a positive, cooperative spirit and terminated if it gets too heated.What are challenges to create parenting plan?Very often the parent need coaching from their attorneys to work on parental plan.The primary purpose of parenting coaching is to facilitate good parenting behavior. I define good parenting behavior as “conduct by a parent which fosters positive interactions with their co-parent and their children”. The means by which this coaching achieves the desired result is through empathy counseling. Empathy counseling is another way of teaching parents to listen AND appreciate or understand the points of view of their co-parent and their children.The co-parent may not agree with you on some aspect of the parenting plan for a good reason. The fact the other parent has a good reason for their position does not mean you are wrong. It means that they see things differently from you. If you appreciate the fact they have a different point of view, and make your appreciation known to them, you are showing empathy. The value of empathy is that it frequently gives rise to reciprocal expressions of appreciation and thus leads to a spirit of cooperation in raising children.
Expressing empathy is not the same as capitulating. It is actually a forceful way of convincing the other party that you are listening to them and hearing their point of view. It does not require admissions of error on the empathizer’s part. Nor does it require embarrassing displays of incoherent humility. Rather, it requires a person to state with conviction and confidence that: “I understand your position. I respect your position. I disagree with your position. Now, let’s talk.”
The “let’s talk” part requires the most confidence. There must be a convincing sense that something will come out of the talking. The other party must believe you seriously wish to improve not only your situation, but theirs as well. When two people negotiate over any issue, they are gradually shifting the momentum of their disagreement from moving apart to moving together. If the momentum of the two parties is exactly equal, they will reach a midpoint in their positions. For example, if one parent wants the child every weekend and the other parent wants the same, the mid-point is for the parents to have alternate weekends with the child. The parent showing empathy could say:
“Because I enjoy spending weekends with Billie, I understand why you would as well.”
The other parent may not express empathy in return for the initial entrée. He may say,
“If you understand, then why not give them to me?”
Alternatively, if the initial expression of empathy is appreciated, he may say:
“I can understand your wanting some weekends with Billie as well.”
There may be an imperceptible threshold of empathy that one party needs to express and the other party needs to perceive before the desired effect is achieved. The quantum of empathy will be different for different people and their differing life experiences and relationships. But if you are not expressing empathetically, you may as well not talk about the children at all. Fighting about the children is about as useful as fighting about the possibilities of another earthquake. One can plan for a devastating natural disaster. Or, one can argue about it. Clearly, the former is a productive activity. The latter is verbal manipulation.
Parenting plan involves Building Credibility
A corollary of building empathy is building credibility. One who has credibility is believed, is listened to and their positions are acted upon with vigour and dispatch. Credibility in court is critical to the survival of one’s legal position. Unless the judge, or the jury in criminal or civil cases, believes you, you lose. It’s that simple. Credibility comes from several independent sources: 1) your position in the case and role in the children’s lives; 2) your behaviour in the courtroom; and 3) your behavior in the eyes of witnesses outside the courtroom.
A parent who has had no contact with a child for a lengthy period of time, several months or several years, asking for a change of custody will be viewed or judged harshly from the onset. Children are not like objects one leaves at a pawnbroker during hard times and returns to claim when things improve. You must have a reasonable position before you are credible in a court of law. A parent who has been out of touch with his or her children must show empathy for them and recognize there may be a lengthy and well-paced period of re-adjustment before assuming full parenting responsibilities. The parent’s appreciation of this need for gradual accommodations to the children will work favorably in the courtroom, as well as with the other parent who has been shouldering the entire burden of child rearing during the absence of the other parent.
Credibility factors in at all levels – with the court, the judge, the mediator, an evaluator, and the other parent.
An amazing truism: if one has credibility with the other parent, one does not need courts, judges, evaluators or mediators! You are in the driver’s seat and can steer your life and family as you, in your wisdom, see fit.
Gaining the credibility of the other parent, then, is pivotal to your future and that of your children. Credibility and confidence is earned through action, not words. Saying that you will exercise good judgment is of little significance if you do not do so. Saying you will consult intelligently, avidly, and earnestly with the other parent is meaningless if you do not do so. Be assertive, but follow through on what you promise. Listen carefully to what the parent says and let them know you heard them and have evaluated what they said in a positive light. “I know you want the best for Billie and Kristie, and you feel that 9 o’clock is too late for them to return on a school night. You’re probably right. But, I will try to get them back earlier when possible and will spend the time well with them when I can’t.” The idea is to negotiate, not to dictate. Apply the “Golden Rule” to this process and you can’t go wrong.
Creating a Responsible Parenting Plan
Once a parent develops a necessary empathy for his or her co-parent, and for the children, and has built his or her credibility in the eyes of the other parent, you are in a position to start working creatively, intelligently, and productively to map out the future relationships between you, your children and their other parent.