When thinking about a parenting plan it is important that you think into the future and not just about your present-day needs. What does this mean? For one, you want to have an agreement that grows with you and establishes good communication early on, shares decision making, shares time, and is as clear as possible.
There are many considerations when thinking of parenting. The age of your children plays a big role, as does the current way you and your spouse parent now. The agreement should be presently focused, but also provide for modifications as the children grow older. What works for a 3 year old may not work for a 13 year old.
As always, when coming to an agreement on parenting, it is important to put aside egos and anger. It cannot be stressed enough that the child’s needs have to come before everyone else.
It’s natural that after divorce or separation, parents will go from being in the same household to two separate homes. Where will they be? If the marital home has to be sold, what will that look like? When we talk about relocation, often the fear is that one parent will choose to move far away from the other, which can interrupt parenting and access to the children. But, we also need to consider the residential location of each parent when both parents are living in the same city. For example, in the City of New York, one parent could live in Staten Island and the other in the Bronx and it could take 2 plus hours to get to one another! This is an unfair position to put the kids in. If this would be the only option, perhaps a parenting schedule that would limit the back and forth is better.
Is your co-parent considering moving out of state? A move may greatly impact the quality and quantity of parenting time for the noncustodial parent and more importantly, the children. Please be mindful of time, stress and the financial burden that travel places on everyone. Hours of travel adds up and can certainly increase resentment financial hardship and unwillingness to visit.
If parents could be more selfless and consider the stress of divorce on children, they would probably be more inclined to live as close as possible so that transitions and travel time are seamless and have his little impact on the quality of a child’s life as possible.
In my opinion as a family law practitioner for 17 years, the every other weekend schedule does not lend itself to a home with two working parents and kids with active school and extracurricular schedules. I find that the more involved the noncustodial parent is, the better. Better that the parties get along and co-parent which is in the best interest of the children. Therefore, while the court may impose and every other weekend and one dinner visit a week schedule, for this parenting schedule may not be in your family’s best interest. When crafting an access schedule for your children it is important to consider your children’s schedules. Therefore, the onus of driving children around providing meals and help with homework should not be the sole obligation of the “residential" parent.
Parents will also need to set up a vacation schedule and a holiday schedule for their children. This is imperative to work out as a lot of anxiety and disagreement is caused by uncertainty. It should be noted that the schedules can all be changed upon agreement as the children get older and their preferences change, but that this should be a default for the family moving forward.
Some parents choose to divide the summer equally while others choose to select 1 to 2 weeks for vacation time. Other parties choose to rotate holiday vacation. Such as winter break and spring break. Typically the parents share in holidays as they either split or alternate. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve (typically continues until noon on Christmas Day) Christmas day (typically continues until noon on December 26) and New Year’s eve/day and Easter are some holidays to consider. You may also want to rotate all other legal or religious holidays depending on what your family celebrates certainly Mother’s Day should always be with the mother and father‘s day should always be with the father. Parent’s birthdays should also be considered & the child’s birthday should be either shared or alternated.
Parents may be so angry at one another for a myriad of reasons. If that bleeds into parenting discussions, it must stop. Disrespect, distrust, anger and aggression should be dealt with early I before it affects the children. Children should be proud of their parents, they should feel that you are both a unified front. Pride, blame, ego and anger do not benefit your kids. Being right at the expense of your child and the other parent does not necessarily serve the kid’s best interest. Sometimes it is helpful to have a check, like a trusted friend or a therapist to speak to before you make an issue out of something. Remember, you have different parenting styles, strengths and weaknesses. Just because your co-parent doesn’t do things the same way you do, doesn’t mean that visits can be denied or micromanaged. Best to let small issues go. Your children will benefit much more from a happy and loving relationship with both parents rather perfection.
Feel free to call the office at 718-981-5505 to schedule a consultation for any of your parenting needs.
©Erin K. Colgan, Esq. 2020
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