If you're separating or divorcing from your partner and you have children, you need to agree how you will care for your children, how each of you will be involved in your children's lives and how you are going to manage parenting time.
When you're making decisions about parenting arrangements after separation, it's important to ensure that you are both considering the best interests of your children. Ideally you should adopt a co-operative approach to parenting arrangements that focuses on your responsibilities to your children, rather than your "rights" as a parent.
The language used by Courts and Family Law Professionals has changed to support this approach. Terms such as "custody" and "visitation" have been replaced by words like "guardianship" and" "parenting time". This is more than just a change of words – it represents a new way of looking at parenting after separation that is more co-operative and respectful, and focuses on the needs of the children.
Parenting time is the amount of time each parent spends with their children when parents separate. When you are deciding your parenting time arrangements, you should always consider the best interests of your children. This generally means that both parents have parenting time with the child, unless there are reasons it is a bad idea, like abuse or placing children in an unsafe environment.
According to Co-Parenting Child Specialist & Mediator, Barbara Rothberg, in a recent coparently article about parenting plan schedules, there is no right answer. Each situation is different and the plan has to work for each individual family. Some parents want to have exactly 50/50 and for others that is not an issue. What is most important is that both parents agree and they are committed to the schedule that will serve the best interests of their children.
When you are setting up your parenting time, there are some important factors that you will need to consider:
- The age of your children
Younger children need to see each parent more frequently and tend to find it easier to transition between homes at least every couple of days. But older children can deal with longer periods of time and often prefer to stay for several days or a week in each house.
- Parents' work schedules & other responsibilities
If one parent works shifts, then this will be a major deciding factor in parenting arrangements that you make. Also if a parent travels often, this will have an impact. There will need to be a greater deal of flexibility between parents if there is a changing shift pattern or frequent business trips.
- How close the parents live to each other
How far apart your homes are will be a major factor in deciding how frequent your transitions are. Ideally parents will remain living close to each other - this makes transitions much easier on everyone. This is especially helpful when homework or sports equipment is left the other parent's home. Parents who live close to each other are able to have more frequent transitions than parents who live 3 hours apart.
- What your children want and specific needs they may have
It's important to consider what suits your children's personality best when deciding parenting time. Some kids prefer to see both parents often, whereas some children find it harder to adjust to the transitions and do best when they spend longer periods of time in each home.
- The type of co-parenting relationship you have
The type of relationship you have with the other parent will dictate how flexible you can be with the schedule. If it is a difficult relationship with lots of conflict, then it will be easier to stick to your agreed parenting time and avoid unnecessary arguments. However if you have a co-operative, amicable relationship, then it's much easier to swap days and make alternative plans for vacations and special occasions. Co-parenting is much easier when communication channels are open and when both parents are willing to compromise.
Once you and your co-parent have agreed your parenting time, you will also need to agree how you are going to organize and manage it and how you are going to communicate with each other. This is where coparently can really make a difference to your everyday life.
The color-coded custody calendar puts the schedule at your fingertips, wherever you are. You can set up and manage your parenting time schedule and easily see at a glace who has custody on a given day. You can more easily keep track of your kids' activities, appointments and events and important pick up/drop off information. There is a unique acknowledge and approval system so both parents are always in sync and you'll receive alerts for upcoming events, appointments and transition times. There is also free guest user access.
coparently's communication tool is designed with the challenges of co-parenting in mind. It gives you a platform for clear child-focused communication, not open to interpretation, opinion or emotion. By reducing conflict, it helps you to maintain a business-like relationship & put the needs of your children first. It is highly secure and can be kept private from children and/or guest users.
coparently's expenses tool enables you to easily log and manage all your shared co-parenting expenses such as children's activities, clothing, school, medical, etc. so you can easily keep track of money in and money out. You allocate the % contribution per parent and the tool automatically calculates how much each parent needs to pay. It is easily printable and exportable.
Overall coparently helps you to put your children first and manage your parenting time from separate homes, without feeling overwhelmed.
As your children grow up, you will need to keep tweaking and adjusting your parenting time arrangements to reflect their needs. As friends become more important and their academic and social commitments grow, you will need to find a schedule that continues to make sense.
Work commitments for parents also change over time. If one parent gets a new job that requires more travel, you will need to revisit the schedule and build in the ability to be more flexible to accommodate this change.
The biggest changes, in terms of parenting time, need to be made when one parent moves away. If there is a significant distance between the two homes, then shared parenting looks very different than it does when you live just 10 minutes apart.
When changes need to be made, work with the other parent to agree new parenting time arrangements that work best for your family's new situation.
Depending on the age of your children, you are going to have to work with the other parent for a number of years to manage your parenting time. This will be a considerably easier task if you can both find a way to work together and always put your children first when making important decisions and arrangements.