Divorce Prep 101: Tips to Pen a Proper Parenting Plan

The Devil is the detail when it comes to coming up with a sustainable Parenting Plan.

Divorce is defined by Merriam Webster as: “The action or an instance of legally dissolving a marriage; a separation or severance.” The separation is huge part of the equation. What was once combined forces now have to be divvied up to cover the bases, especially when there are children involved.

The Parenting Plan often is where much time can be consumed along the road to divorce settlement. And just when you think you both have it all figured out on paper, putting the plan into real-world action can run into snags. “But wait a minute, I thought this was my weekend with the kids?” If you have to refer to the Parenting Plan document each and every time a question comes up, then the plan itself wasn’t properly vetted. “If you fail to plan; you’re planning to fail.” When Ben Franklin coined this phrase long ago, he wasn’t referring to divorce, but it’s certainly applicable in this case.

Don’t think you and your ex will be able to figure it out as you go with a Parenting Plan sporting vague, generic phrasing. The devil is in the details — or lack thereof. Be specific with everything. Visitation dates, times, drop-off/pick-up locations, holiday schedules, child care expenses, day-to-day decisions, extra curricular activities, education, health care, information sharing, relocation, transportation … Don’t leave anything to chance or interpretation. What one person reads, someone else can see something totally different. One word can make all the difference in a sentence structure. For example: “Father shall enjoy a week of uninterrupted childsharing. The time period shall the last 7 days in June.” Seems there is an important word missing in that second sentence. How about “…shall be the last 7 days in June.” That reads more precise. Or, is it simply “… shall last 7 days in June?” Confusing and another opportunity for conflict. Proofread the Parenting Plan multiple times. And then proofread it again. Better yet, have someone else beside your lawyer or paralegal give it a look as well.

Another major factor to consider is if the plan is sustainable. Situations change. Adjustments though can be made to a Parenting Plan without having to get a third party involved. Simple tweaks like exchanging a weekend for another or asking for a new pick-up or drop-off location can and should be worked out between the two of you. It’s a good idea to get any recurring change in writing. But, if there is a major adjustment being requested, and an impasse prevails, mediation once again can be used in place of court action, along with co-parenting coordinators and/or parenting counselors. Yes, there are fees involved with these options, but court will cost more.

By name alone, the Parenting Plan is about what’s best for the children. Plan accordingly, like your life and your kids’ lives depend on it.

Always enlist your lawyer to assist in the drafting of your Parenting Plan. They can provide a base to work from while you fill in the details.

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