Parents considering divorce or separation must make decisions that will affect their children for a lifetime. Parental decisions include a placement schedule, how to manage holidays, and how to navigate future issues such as significant others.
Each family is different, and each set of parents may choose different approaches to help them come to these decisions. Couples can have these discussions on their own, get support and guidance from a neutral child specialist mediator, do a collaborative out-of-court team process, or take their disputes to court for a judge to make decisions for them. Reaching a mutual decision is best given that parents’ ability to work together and manage conflict is the main predictor of how their children will adjust to divorce and separation.
If you have questions about process options and the impact on your children, please consider reaching out to me as a child specialist or to a lawyer mediator at Hansen & Hildebrand S.C.
What is a Family Plan?
The Family Plan (aka Parenting Plan) is a written document that represents the agreements between parents regarding:
The Family Plan is ideally detailed to avoid potential conflicts and to allow parents the opportunity to think about specific situations before they occur in hopes of creating a scenario that goes well for the children in the future. The plan is also made part of the court agreement and final judgment.
What is the Focus of the Plan?
The Family Plan should focus on the children; prioritizing the children’s physical needs (e.g., nap/sleeping routine, eating routine, medical care, protection from harm), emotional needs (e.g., relationship with parents, temperament, levels of anxiety, etc.), developmental needs (e.g., younger children need more frequent contacts with each parent than adolescents; younger children need more supervision and parent direction than older children), social needs (e.g., time with friends, time in activities), and educational needs (e.g., space and time to study, parent support and participation). Parents need to discuss and make specific agreements about how each child’s needs will be met, including how to address future issues or changes. A child specialist can help assure the children have a voice without the pressure of making a choice between their parents.
What if I Find this Difficult?
Divorce and separation are emotionally challenging experiences for parents and children alike. Crafting a plan can be challenging for even the best-intentioned co-parents. Investing in a child specialist process that supports your family and helps create a thorough, child-focused family plan is well worth the effort to assure the future well-being of your children. It is an opportunity to help the children understand that mom and dad are working together for their good and it is an effective way to create a plan that can support the children in their adjustment while also decreasing the risk of parent conflict in the future. It can also help you address concerns of adult children.
Feel free to contact me to identify helping professionals who are available to support you and your family through the process.
Casey A. Holtz, Ph.D.