Taking the time to consider what parenting plan or order you believe is appropriate for your family is helpful for a number of reasons – most importantly, because structure is essential for you to move on with life and for your children. When considering your parenting orders, three main rules must be applied:
I suggest that you write down what you want in access to the children, what you can handle and how you will manage or make it work. Similarly, complete the exercise again and write down what you think the other parent wants, what they can handle and how they will manage the arrangements.
Consider work arrangements/flexibility, annual leave, living arrangements, school holidays, special occasions (Christmas, Easter, religious holidays), long weekends, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and any other events throughout the year that is important to your family. Consider the ability of you and the other parent to individually care for and provide the basic needs of children (appropriate home, food, ability to get the children to school and other) on an ongoing basis. Is the other parent able to be emotionally available to the children? Consider stability of employment, housing and other support available to the other parent? Have there been issues in the past of neglect or a need for the police/DOCS to be involved? If you are working, how much annual leave do you have? Do you have flexible working hours to work in with the children? What would happen in the event of sick days or illness? How can you integrate time for the children to connect with their extended family (grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins)? Where will pick up and drop off take place? Often as children get older, this process can take place at school, for instance Friday afternoon to Monday morning access, so parents don’t need to confront each other. Depending on the age of your children, how much time can they tolerate away from the Live With Parent? The Divorce Answered Parenting Plan form has a range of different clauses for in a wide variety of areas which prompt your consideration. You may choose to use this form as a negotiating tool with the other parent or for your lawyer to understand what you consider an acceptable arrangement for the children. It will undoubtedly assist your lawyer to negotiate some appropriate common ground in a shared custody agreement and help guide you and your expectations.
Similarly, if you aren’t ready to draft parenting orders, the considerations outlined above are helpful to keep in mind when you are making your parenting plans suggestions in the Divorce Answered Separation Statement. Your lawyer needs to know what the current arrangements are with your children and you may want to make some changes to these existing arrangements.
The time and effort you take to consider your children and what they may want or need in the future parenting arrangements will be returned to you with happier children.