The Critical Pieces of a Strong Parenting Plan
It can be hard to determine the best way to parent with your ex after divorce, especially when there are still fresh wounds. When parents don't agree on fundamental issues such as education and medical care, it can be even more challenging. While no situation is perfect, there are steps you can take which can help you minimize conflict and reduce stress on your kids. By taking the time to build a solid parenting plan, you and your ex can create a more functional environment for yourselves as well as your children. The foundation of a good co-parenting relationship begins with having the critical pieces of a strong parenting plan in place from the start.
Start as Soon as Possible
At the end of your divorce, you will be expected to have agreed upon or proposed a parenting plan for the court’s approval. The plan is going to include several details about you, your ex, and information such as how you intend to share custody, manage child support, pay for medical expenses, and resolve disputes. Although you may think you and your ex are on the same page when it comes to decisions about your kids, may quickly learn that you have significant disagreements about certain parenting issues. It can take time to work these matters out to everyone's satisfaction, and it's better to determine if there are any conflicts early in the process.
Where your child will be living and how you and your ex will share your time, are going to be central to your parenting plan. Having a schedule which works well for both parents all of the time is probably unrealistic, but you can choose to be reasonable and fair with one another when it comes to seeing your kids. Developing a visitation plan which allows each of you frequent contact with your child, ways to get updates and communicate when apart from them, and requires flexibility on both sides, can help make things easier on everyone.
Absent exceptional circumstances, Wisconsin parents will share joint authority to make decisions about their children regarding areas such as medical care and education, extra-curricular activities, and religion. If parents truly expect they will not be able to agree on some issues, it can be helpful to incorporate a third-party decision-maker into the case to make decisions when parents can’t. For example, if you and your ex have conflicting opinions about your child having a particular medical treatment, you could agree to follow the recommendations of the pediatrician. If a decision can’t be reached about which school the child should attend, the court can appoint a Special Master or Referee to hear all the relevant facts and render the decision out of court. While the decision could still be appealed to the judge, most people tend to rely on the these third party decisions to help them expedite their disputes.
Ultimately, your parenting plan will probably have some terms you and your ex can agree upon. However, even a seemingly small decision, such as where your child will receive dental care, can blow up quickly when parents are already angry with each other. It's vital that you do your best to recognize the issues which truly matter when it comes to your kids, and be able to distinguish them from those which have more to do with how you feel towards your ex.
It is essential that your parenting plan is prepared in a manner which supports your child. At First Look Family Law, Attorney Karyn Youso understands the importance of crafting the right parenting plan for your family. Contact us and let's schedule an appointment to take a "first look" at your situation and figure out your next steps.