Your parenting plan is the foundation of your co-parenting relationship. A good parenting plan enables your child to thrive and can help you maintain a positive dynamic with your co-parent. Conversely, an unoptimized parenting plan could increase tension between you and your co-parent, and make life harder for your child. Today, we're covering how you can create a parenting plan that suits your needs.
Discuss Who Will Look After Your Child when You Can't
In most co-parenting relationships, at least one party will be unable to care for their child full-time. Even if both parents have consistent 9-5 employment, they'll need to provide daycare for their child from around the time school ends (3:30-4:00) to when they can pick them up (5:30-6:00 pm).
Agreeing on who will care for your child when neither of you is available is an important discussion, and reaching an effective compromise both parties are happy with is essential if you want to feel satisfied with your custody arrangement.
Your first option is asking an individual such as a relative or friend to look after your child. Arrangements such as having a trusted grandparent watch a child, or scheduling playdates at a friend's house on nights when a parent can't pick their child up immediately, can both be effective - especially if you're looking to save money. Childcare can be incredibly cost-prohibitive, so finding a less fiscally stressful alternative may serve you well.
If you choose to go this route, it's incredibly important that both parents trust the individual trusted to look after the child, and feel safe having them watch over the child for extended periods of time.
Your other option, of course, is using a childcare facility. Many schools offer after-school daycare at no cost, so if all you need is after-school care, check with your school and see if that's an option.
Otherwise, you may need to pay for a childcare facility. As mentioned earlier, these can be expensive. Finding a facility that's relatively close to both parents, within each parent's budget, and that both parties feel comfortable using, is crucial.
The more effort you put into planning childcare before your custody order is set in stone by the court, the less stressful your life will be post-custody order.
Talk About How You Want to Split Custody
There are several common ways co-parents split custody.
Some exchange custody mid-week. Some use a 2-5, 5-2 or 3-4, 4-3 schedule where a child spends two or three days with one parent, then four or five with the other, then five or four with the first parent and two or three with the second before the cycle repeats again. Yet others simply exchange custody every week. Some parents don't even both setting a formal custody exchange arrangement at all, instead choosing to flexibly exchange custody when it works for both parties.
The only right answer here is the one that works best for you and your family. If you and your co-parent are on good terms and can trust each other, a flexible co-parenting arrangement may be perfect. If you have similar schedules, a week-on, week-off custody order can be flexible and allow each parent to spend a good amount of time with the child. Otherwise, you may benefit from a more flexible order, such as a 2-5, 5-2 or 3-4, 4-3 visitation schedule.
The most important thing here - similar to deciding childcare - is that you and your co-parent reach an agreement that both parties find at least acceptable, if not ideal.
Start Discussing Holidays Early
Some holidays, such as Mother's Day or Father's Day, can be distributed among co-parents relatively intuitively.
However, others can be much more complex to deal with. Do you want to spend Christmas together, as a family? Should one parent have custody for half the day, and the other parent take over from there? Who gets the first half of the day, and who gets the second? Would it be better for one parent to have custody on Christmas Eve, and the other on Christmas Day? If you celebrate a different holiday tradition than Christmas, is there an equitable way to handle that?
As you can see, custody over the holidays can easily become quite complicated. These complications are only exacerbated when parents want to take their child on a trip over the holidays, which may deprive the other from spending a holiday with their child at all.
Figure out what holidays are valuable to you and your co-parent. If you can reach an arrangement where each parent feels that they get to spend their most cherished times of the year with their child, then you're doing well.
Coming up with a visitation schedule that works for both parties can be challenging. If you're going through a custody dispute, having an attorney you can rely on to champion your rights as a parent is vital.
At Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC, we'll work with you to ensure you pursue the best possible outcome in your custody case. Contact us online or via phone at (731) 256-0023 to schedule a consultation with our team.