Steps for Implementing Your Parenting Plan
Too often, co-parents put together a Parenting Plan, without a lot of consideration for how to implement the plan. Sometimes one or both co-parents are optimistic and think “we’ll just handle things the way we always have…the parenting plan is just there for back-up if we have problems, and we won’t have problems.”
What Causes Discord will Often Also Cause “Problems”
Tension can be created when one co-parent:
- Starts dating and leverages grandparents for babysitting or hires a babysitter during their own parenting time. (The “right of first refusal” clause is the most easily forgotten!)
- Allows a new significant other to spend the night while the children are home, moves in with new partner, and/or gets re-married.
- Allows the children to engage in a new “risky recreational” activity, such as zip-lining, riding an ATV or jet ski, etc.
- Makes a major purchase for a child such as a computer, smartphone, vehicle, etc.
- Allows a child to get a radically different haircut or body piercing.
- Makes essentially any other change outside the norm: putting the kids to bed at a different time, suddenly eating out all the time when the children were accustomed to eating at home.
With change, comes resistance…particularly for those who have a need for control, or for those who feel they’ve been “one-upped”.
Get Ahead of the Problems
It’s all about implementation. Hopefully you and your co-parent took quality time to put together a parenting plan as part of the finalization of your divorce, and are willing to put more time in for activating your plan. If you adopted a standardized parenting plan, these too require conversation and review. Here are some steps to help you and your co-parent implement your plan:
- Plan a meeting where you and your co-parent can review your parenting plan.
- Before the meeting, review the plan on your own and note any confusing or vague parts of the plan.
- At this meeting, put your emotions aside! This is a plan that concerns your children, and their well-being.
- Use the meeting time to come to agreement on the “what if” scenarios that might not be covered in your plan (see above tension points for examples).
- Establish a regular plan to keep each other updated on what’s working and what’s not working: a quick text before parenting time transitions, a weekly email or phone call, etc.
Okay, if you’re reading this and thinking, “yeah, right…you obviously don’t know my co-parent, Ms. Pollyanna…” then keep reading. One can hope that all co-parent relationships are amiable, but I also understand reality. 😊
Get to Know Your Plan
If you’re able to have a meeting with your co-parent, great! See below for some additional steps to help you implement your plan. If that’s just not possible, the tips below can help you avoid pitfalls as well!
- Be sure you understand the Holiday Schedule in your parenting plan. Put the holidays on a calendar to see how they interact with the standard parenting plan. Better yet, set up a shared calendar if possible. Some parents are shocked when they learn that due to school break or holidays that they may not see their children for two or three consecutive weeks!
- Create a cheat-sheet with all of the information you are required to communicate with your co-parent.
- Notify other parent ASAP when spending overnight at another home.
- Send itinerary for out-of-state travel 7 days before leaving.
- Notify other parent any time kids are with a sitter or family member for 4 hours or more.
- Send annual vacation requests every year by Jan. 7th.
- Send a text if running 10 min. (or more) late for a transition.
These steps and tips can allow for a less painful transition into co-parenting. Don’t underestimate the significance of your parenting plan!
At Smarter Divorce Solutions, we help parents create robust parenting plans during mediation. And we also help our clients transition after divorce with our “New Normal” strategy session, which includes creation of co-parenting tools like those mentioned above. Give us a call today at 877-552-4017 to learn more! We’re happy to help!