You and your co-parent have agreed to share custody of your children. Now you need to work out the specifics of your parenting plan. This can be a challenge — particularly if the two of you still have some residual anger and distrust. However, a solid parenting plan will help you both be better parents — which is what’s in your children’s best interests.
It may be tempting to leave things you can’t agree on out of the plan and deal with them when the time comes. However, this is only going to cause conflict and confusion later. It’s typically better to have a detailed plan in place that you can both refer to and that your kids can count on.
Following are some tips for working out a parenting plan that you and your co-parent can both be satisfied with:
List your priorities
Before you can effectively negotiate, you need to know what’s important to you. Make a list of those things. Pull out a calendar and look through the year. Maybe you want the kids on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Don’t assume your co-parent will go along with that if it’s not “your” week. Ask for it and get it in the plan. Maybe you want to take the kids up to your parents’ home in Big Bear for a month in the summer. Again, seek to get it in the plan.
Find out what your co-parent wants
Your co-parent should determine their priorities as well. Ask what those are. Let them know that you care about what’s important to them. If they won’t tell you until you’re in the middle of negotiations, you can likely guess. This will help you plan your negotiating strategy.
Be willing to compromise and concede
When you know what’s important to you and your co-parent, you can give them something they want that you don’t really care about. That should help motivate your co-parent to do the same. Of course, on things that are important to both of you, you’ll likely need to compromise. You may both want the kids at Christmas, but you’ll likely need to split the holiday in some way or take turns having them in alternate years.
Your family law attorney has far more experience in negotiating parenting plans than you do. They can provide valuable guidance as you go through this process.