When Parents Don’t ‘Parent’ Together Anymore

1 Jul

I am really excited that I was recently appointed to a panel of mediators doing custody mediations for the Second Judicial District Court. The court supports mediation and prefers that parents make the decision about custody and visitation without the court’s ‘help.’  After all … who knows the issues important to the family better than the parents.

child custodyDivorcing/separating parents often think that the biggest issue in a parenting plan is who gets the kids on what days in a regular week, during the summer or on holidays or vacations.

That is certainly a big part of it, but there are more issues to discuss and decide on. The more detail the plan has, the less chance there is for disagreements down the line.  I know it’s impossible to think of everything, but here are just a few things for parents to talk about and perhaps nail down some guidelines earlier rather than later:

  • If an exchange from one parent to another occurs around meal time, which parent has responsibility for feeding the child(ren)?
  • What happens if a child is ill? Or a parent is ill?
  • Can relatives be used to provide child care, if needed? What is the back-up plan?
  • What happens if a child (especially a young one) is ‘homesick’ for the other parent?
  • Sometimes school is cancelled some reason – what then?
  • Should there be similar routines in each household? (i.e. bed time or homework)
  • Are there special needs that should perhaps be accommodated in a consistent manner? (i.e. taking medication or diet)
  • What items will be sent with the child at every exchange? (i.e. favorite toy or electronic device)
  • Should there be an agreed-upon dollar limit for gifts for birthdays? or holidays?
  • What if one parent meets someone new … how long before the child in introduced to the new partner?
  • Should there be a pre-determined time when the parenting plan is reviewed? (i.e. annually or when a child enters high school/can drive)
  • Etc., Etc.

I think you get the picture. Different things are important to each family. But before going into a custody mediation, or even an informal conversation about children, parents should think about what is important and put those on the table for discussion. Dealing with them upfront may help avoid problems later.





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