A divorce is never easy, and it gets more difficult when it involves children. Not only the parents will have to deal with their own separation and everything that revolves around it, but they will also need to be extra careful when talking about their children.
The Divorce Act includes the need for a parenting plan among its sections, and the terms must be approved or changed by the court. Parents should leave any disagreements behind and work together to form a parenting plan that works, and that benefits their children most of all.
A family lawyer calgary can always help the parties collaboration to come up with a plan, and they will gladly work as mediators in case of need. Other professionals that may be involved in a divorce suit are social workers, therapists and counsellors.
To better go through a divorce and make a perfect parenting plan that works, here are some tips.
Pay Attention to Your Children’s Needs
The entire goal of a parenting plan is to avoid any harm to the children. A divorce can be an emotionally-heavy experience, and in order to not prolongate the minor’s suffering, the parents must provide a solid ground on which the family can stand.
The parenting plan must be attentive to the children’s needs, considering their age and maturity to understand the situation they are going through. Younger children may be affected by a divorce later in life, while older children can oppose the separation and have a harder time adapting. Kids with special needs can also take longer to understand the situation and need more assistance, especially if the changes in routine can affect their well-being.
Parents must always talk to their children and explain the situation, and not dwell in arguments between the two of them that can compromise the kids’ future. They need to be able to adapt the parenting plans and overcome challenges at all times.
The first step to creating a perfect parenting plan is to establish communication not only between each parent and the children but also between the parents.
Raising kids is hard work, and both parents should always be present in the little ones’ lives. Keeping an open communication channel via phone, text or email is essential, and having an emergency contact is just as important.
To court, the parents should bring a custody schedule that complies with the children’s own routines. Most parents choose to alternate weeks between them, or have weekend rights, as those settings are easier to be followed.
What should not be done regarding schedule is a daily alternation between houses, as it can cause a disruption to routine and affect the children’s capacity to find comfort in their homes. The same can be said about spending long periods of time with no contact with the children since it can create an emotional gap with the parent.
Another thing to include in the communication section of your parenting plan is the right to visits, text, phone and video calls. Parents should be able to talk daily to their children if they wish to, even if the minors are staying over at the other parent’s home. By not allowing the kids to talk to their parent, the other can be accused of trying to alienate the children.
Moreover, all decisions regarding the children should be taken by both parents together, as a team. One may think that they know best, but the other may disagree, and so a lot of talk is necessary.
Remember that communication is for the children’s well-being, and not a form of punishment to the parents for the divorce.
Young children must always be accompanied by an adult to go from one place to another, and when it comes to their routines, transportation should be included in the parenting plan.
Matters such as going to school, medical appointments or simply taking the children from one parent’s house to another are all things that can be thought through and outlined to the court. If one parent lives close to the kids’ school, how will they be getting there, by bus, car or walking? And if the family home is farther away, what then?
The refusal of one part to commit to transportation, especially during a custody exchange, can be a red flag in courts, and the parent may face reprisals because of it. If you really want to be part of your children’s lives, you should expect to attend to their needs accordingly, including getting out of your way to take them to where they should be.
When it comes down to vacation time, parents need to have an open communication channel to agree upon who is going to take the children on holidays, and how far can they go. For international travel, both parents should sign statements allowing the children to leave the country.
One vital part of children’s lives is receiving proper education. During the divorce process, parents must assure that the kids are going to school and thriving—that is, that their performance is not being affected by the family struggles.
In the parenting plan, there should be a section about education. Things such as the school’s name and location are basic information, and the courts like to see beyond that. Parents should specify if they are going to school meetings together, if one of them is going to be responsible for it, and how they intend to deal with extracurricular activities and money matters.
Another good practice for parents going through a divorce is to set up a college fund for their children, in which both of them contribute to regular payments that will benefit the kids in the future. This kind of commitment is well looked up and is a great addition to your parenting plan.
Speaking of money, financial matters are not covered by parenting plans, as those are usually much more complex during divorces.
For this reason, it is best to have everything sorted out separately, in order to let the court decide on financial assets and property on their own. This applies to child support as well, in case one parent is going to have the majority of the custody and will need help from the other.
What you can include in your plan, however, relates to extra expenses that your children may require. For example, the payment for extracurricular activities, language classes, clothes and electronics can be listed in a parenting plan.
The parties must make sure that they are not treating the children as expenses, but rather have their best interests in mind and a will to act upon them.
Other Family Members
A lot of families have more than three or four members, so addressing the extended family is also a good way of having your parenting plan court-approved.
Grandparents will also wish to be a part of the children’s lives and should be granted visitation opportunities by the parents. There is a good chance that the grandparents will help raise the kids, so including them in the scheduling and plans will make this part of the divorce suit go smoothly.
One element that should also be considered is the existence of step-siblings. Parents should work with their children to be included in the family hub as much as possible, while also establishing distinctions between both households. For example, the step-brother of a girl whose parents are going through a divorce must understand that she may not always be home with him, as she is spending time with her other parent.
Moreso, the party with another child should not expect their ex-spouse to pay for the support of a child that is not theirs, and so the parenting plan can turn complex.
In any case, the parents must keep one thing in mind: The parenting plan is to benefit the children, and not the adults. Having only the kids in mind and accepting to make sacrifices that will promote the children’s well-being is the number one obligation that divorcing parents must have, and seeking aid from professionals is more than encouraged. Hopefully, those tips will bring you clarity of mind to set up a perfect parenting plan that will surely work.