The importance of a parenting plan after divorce

This article talks about how a parenting plan helps parents successfully co-parent their children after a divorce.

Parents who divorce usually have the best interests of their children at heart. Divorce may actually be more of a bitter pill to swallow for kids. Sometimes, children can experience feelings that are foreign to them like insecurity or feeling unsafe. It's crucial, then, for parents to have a plan in place to help their children through what may be a sad, scary and tumultuous time for them. A solid parenting plan can help spouses to co-parent with the welfare of their children in mind.

A parenting plan is like a roadmap that guides parents on how to raise their children after divorce. It speaks to things like decisions about the children's lives such as what school they will go to, when and how much time they will spend with each parent, and how parents will share important information about them.

The aims of a parenting plan

The law in Canada always looks out for the children's best interests in any situation. In situations where parents are in conflict, children often feel that angst as well. Having a parenting plan often reduces stress between individuals by giving the parenting dynamic a clear vision in writing. What a plan does not do is address things like division of property or spousal support.

An effective and well-rounded parenting plan contains well-defined guidelines unique to each family. A plan may:

· Contain useful information, yet be malleable enough to reflect the changing realities of children's lives

· Set out expectations of and for each parent

· Identify issues that may become contentious such as how parents will handle holidays

· Discuss how to handle childcare and babysitting

· Spell out what happens if one parent wants to move

· Identify how to handle schedule changes

· Talk about religious affiliation

Parents who have a relatively amicable relationship after separation or divorce may be able to work together on a plan to help them raise their kids. If that relationship is tenuous or non-existent, family law options such as mediation or the collaborative law process could prove beneficial. Lawyers, social workers or family therapists may also be able to help.

Other considerations of a plan

There are no hard and fast rules as to what should be in a parenting plan. Parents know their children best, and not every family situation is the same. That is why communication is important when fashioning a plan. For instance, not every family follows a set religion, so for some that is a non-issue in a parenting plan.

There are some things, however, that concern all families and children. Health care is one of those. A plan could include who the doctor is for the children and how parents will make decisions about their kids' medical and dental care. Who will take the kids to these appointments? How will parents share medical information and who will have access to medical records? Parents can address all these questions in a parenting plan.

A plan could also include information about travelling, relationships with other family members, including grandparents, and how to care for children with special needs. If children take part in many extra-curricular activities like sports, these, too can also be addressed.

Where to find support

There are resources readily available to those in Alberta who are seeking to create an effective parenting plan. An experienced lawyer can help design a plan that fits a client's unique situation, ensures the protection of the children's best interests and significantly increases the odds of a smooth co-parenting relationship in the future.