Studies show that approximately 40% of children will experience the breakup of their parents’ marriage prior to turning 18 years old. Children of divorced parents are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral problems in comparison with their peers. Although there is a belief that some children are better off with divorced parents than living with both parents in a home with conflicts, the fact remains that young children are affected by their parents’ separation.
In low-conflict divorces, soon-to-be-divorced parents often express the desire to shield their children from the separation and conflicts associated with the divorce. In high-conflict cases, some parents are too entangled in the financial details of the divorce or are too busy nursing their own emotional issues to understand the impact of divorce on their children. Regardless of the level of parental conflicts, most divorcing parents need some guidance to develop a parenting plan that will serve their children’s interests and simplify the transition for their children. Below are some points for parents to discuss in working out an effective parenting plan:
- Legal Custody– how will the parents manage the decisions relating to the children’s education, medical needs, and extracurricular activities.
- Visitation Schedule (or parenting plan)-when each parent will have physical care and responsibility for the children.
- Transportation-how will the parents share in the responsibilities of transporting the children to and from the visits?
- Holidays/Vacation-how the parents will share holidays and vacations. Will the children spend Christmas’ Eve with Mother and Christmas’ Day with Mother?
- Communications between parents– Are parents allowed to communicate through their children? Are parents’ communications limited to online portals such as talkingparents.com?
- Nesting arrangement– This is an arrangement where the children live in one home while each parent takes turn visiting the children at that home. This is a unique situation with advantages and disadvantages that should be thoroughly discussed between the parents.
- Parents’ significant other-How will the parents introduce the children to their significant others?
- Consumption of alcohol and cigarettes– Can the parents drink or smoke before or during the visits? What are the parameters of such consumption?
- Contacts with the noncustodial parent– Can the children talk to or Facetime the noncustodial parent? If so, what are the parameters of those contacts and who will initiate them?
- Therapy for children-Sometimes the children will need therapy to sort out their feelings about the divorce or about the parents. How will the parents coordinate and pay for the children’s counseling?
These are just a few points to begin the discussion among parents about how they will share time with their children. The success of a co-parenting relationship depends largely on the parents’ ability to work together and placing their children’s needs first.