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5 considerations when discussing Parenting Plans.

Here are 5 considerations when discussing Parenting Plans

  • Does your child want to be in one home more than another?
  • What day and time is best for exchanges?
  • Does living in one place half of the time severely impact a friendship or quality time with others she needs right now?
  • Have you thought about how to respect your child through this process?
  • Is the difference in monthly support really worth hurting your child?
  • Does your child want to be in one home more than another?

DOES YOUR CHILD WANT TO BE IN ONE HOME MORE THAN ANOTHER?

Parents are often concerned with the need to keep the siblings together, sometimes the children’s needs are different. Consider this.

  • Are you putting your child into a blended family with new children or a significant other that she doesn’t particularly like?
  • Do you really expect your teenage daughter to leave all of those clothes and new makeup or take it from one house to the other every few days?
  • Is that fair? On the other hand, some children really enjoy the change and going back and forth and experiencing the “different lifestyle" in each home.

You know your child better than most. Find a way to ask your child what they want to do without committing yourself to their ideas.

“Jack, we are still trying to figure out how we are going to share our time with you, what would you like to see happen?" I really can’t think of many other ways to really show your child that you are genuinely interested in helping them through this too.

WHAT DAY AND TIME IS BEST TO DO EXCHANGES?

Consider how much stuff your child will need to take with him or her to go to the other house. Can you find a way for the 2 adults to exchange their belongings without the children?

So often the parenting plan will begin and end during the weekend when it is most convenient for the parents – and maybe best for the kids. I found it so striking while working with another attorney who suggested a Monday after school exchange. This allowed the children to start their parenting week with the regular week. The parents helped the kids go to school as they usually do without all of their extra baggage, and the parents made sure to get everything the kids needed and wanted to the other home.

Any opportunity like this that can make life easier for your child is a great idea.

DOES LIVING IN ONE PLACE HALF OF THE TIME SEVERELY IMPACT A FRIENDSHIP OR QUALITY TIME WITH OTHERS THEY NEED RIGHT NOW?

In more than a few cases I have experienced parenting time plans that failed to consider the child’s relationship with a half-sibling, a best friend or a neighborhood friend.

While, of course, the child’s relationship with his or her parents is most important, his or her other relationships are also very significant to a child of any age.

Consider the parenting schedule of half-siblings or step-siblings. Consider how much time during the week your child may see or be able to spend with her special friend. What can you do to help your child maintain is support system through and after divorce?

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT HOW TO RESPECT YOUR CHILD THROUGH THIS PROCESS?

In my “previous life" as a guardian ad litem, and so often now, there are situations where the child is never asked what he or she wants. There is not a court that I have been in front of the past 10 years, outside of dependency and neglect work, that has ever put the child in the courtroom in front of his parents on the record and asked, “what do you want to do?"

Although, I agree that a child should NEVER be put in this situation, shame on the parent who can’t take the time –whether with a counselor, alone or with the other parent when possible - to discuss how this should and will likely look for the child involved.

Of course parents think that they know what is best for their children, but understand that divorce is likely a new situation for your child too. His or her desires are a consideration for the court in determining the parenting plan, when age appropriate.

Whether you can find agreement between the two of you to determine what is best for your children, or need the involvement of a Child Family Investigator or Parental Responsibility Evaluator, handle this with respect for your child.

Understand that the involvement of others when you can’t make the decision without professionals is intrusive and usually scary for a child.

Respect their time. Respect the fear in the unknown. Respect your child.

IS THE DIFFERENCE IN MONTHLY SUPPORT REALLY WORTH HURTING YOUR CHILD?

Child support is determined in large part by the number of overnights a parent has in relation to the combined gross income of the parents.

While I believe that it happens far less than people think or accuse the other parent, sometimes parents will not agree to a parenting plan that has substantially more overnights with one parent instead of the other without consideration of what is best for the child.

The worst scenario is the parents in different states that have the children leaving their school friends and home for their entire summer and every break. When I mediate a parenting plan, I try to walk parents through the situation as if they were the children.

There are plenty of ways to be creative with child support. Parents cannot contract out of support that is for the care of the child. There are ways to consider extra expenses necessary for the child, travel expenses and costs of a parent traveling to where the children are for a period of time instead of uprooting the children out of the life they are in for the majority of the year.

Depending on the combined gross incomes there can be a difference of hundreds of dollars each month in support. While I understand and see everyday how this can effect a parent, I still come back to what is in your child’s best interests? Figure that out and then everything else will fall into place.

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