Negotiating the Parenting Plan

The parenting plan, or parenting schedule, is often times one of the most debated subjects in any divorce, child custody or family law case.  Most cases fall within the typical category where both parents agree to have joint decision making over the children’s care and both parents have regular parenting time (formerly called “joint physical custody”) of the children.  But parties routinely disagree about the amount of time and the schedule that each parent should have with the children, and these disagreements can lead to very contentious cases.  All too often, the parents equate their own success in a divorce, child custody or family law case, by measuring the level of parenting time he or she is allocated.  Also, the fact that child support is determined based upon the number of overnights each parent has with the children makes it even more of an important issue for people (for good reason).

29Some creativity is always helpful to get parties to agree on a parenting plan.  A good mediator can help the parties think outside the box in developing a parenting plan that both fits the children’s needs and also resolves the particular parties’ objections.  Also, attention needs to be placed on the realistic constraints of particular plans that one of the parties may be asking for: For example, the farther away the parties live from one another, the more difficult it is for the parties to have equal parenting time for school-aged children.  Further, the childrens’ ages and special needs need to be taken into account in order assess the parties’ ability to adequately maintain a relationship with the children.  For example, it is much better for a very young child to have frequent contact with both parents for small periods of time rather than long periods of time with a single parent.  It is often difficult for parties who are stuck on their own emotional issues to really stop and think about the realistic aspects of a parenting plan in terms of the best interests of the children.

In order to keep the parties from having disagreements in the future, a parenting plan should be very specific and as thorough as possible.  Issues such as, which parent will transport the children for exchanges on holidays, or, what to do when one parent is away overnight for a business trip, are things that can cause disagreements between the parties, or, worse yet, litigation, down the road, if the issues were not agreed upon ahead of time.  At the Attorneys of Highlands Ranch, Heidi Town can help you and your children’s other parent come to an agreement on your case that will bring your dispute to a close.

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