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Agreeing to create a parenting plan together is the easy part

You and your estranged spouse may have reached a point where you can sit down together and discuss the terms of your divorce. You may have gotten there by agreeing that you need to work out an amicable solution for the sake of your children. You don't want to put them through a contentious court battle and you want them to know that you are both committed to raising them together regardless of whether you remain married.

That may have been the easy part. Now, you have to come up with a schedule that works for the children and for the two of you as well. How do you fit all of your commitments to the children, your work and your personal life into one schedule?

What the schedule is really about

When creating a schedule, it may help to keep the following in mind:

  • Do you and your former spouse live close to each other?
  • Will the schedule work with their school commitments?
  • What about child care when neither can be with the children?
  • How does going back and forth impact your children?
  • Is the schedule too cumbersome on them?
  • What will a typical day look like for the children?
  • Should your kids have a say in how the schedule works?

If you have a child with special needs, this needs to be a primary concern when creating a parenting schedule. Their comfort, security and safety may overrule any other considerations. Finally, you should incorporate a way to handle unexpected scheduling conflicts. Life is unpredictable, and when a true conflict comes up, a plan needs to be in place to deal with it.

What the schedule should not be about

Yes, the concerns of each parent need attention when creating a schedule. However, in order to ensure that the schedule remains mostly about the needs of your children, consider the following:

  • Don't expect to get everything you want.
  • You will have to compromise.
  • It's not about winning or losing.
  • It's about providing your kids with love, support and access to you both.
  • Don't try to make parenting time inconvenient for your former spouse.
  • You may not always remember that this is about the kids and not you.
  • Don't assume the other parent can't handle being a parent.

In addition, don't put unrealistic expectations for the future into the parenting plan. For instance, if you both don't live in the school district you want your toddler to attend, don't expect that you both will be able to when the time comes. Too many factors could influence where you each will be at that point in the future. Instead, you could agree to make adjustments when your child starts school.

More than likely, your divorce will take more than a couple of weeks to finalize. You and the other parent should take some time to put your schedule into action before considering it final. You can work out any speed bumps you come across without the need to return to court. Realistically, it may take about a month to identify any obvious issues and make the appropriate adjustments to the schedule. You may find that you need to think outside the box in order to come up with a plan that works for the children and both you and your ex.

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