Even if parents decide they will end their marriage or other committed relationship, they are still parents! Parenting plans help everyone know:
- When each parent will take care of their child(ren),
- Where the child(ren) will live,
- Who will make legal decisions on the child(ren)’s behalf (like registering for school),
- What the parents agree should be done in particular situations (like how to handle disagreements, a proposed move, and whether and where children will attend religious school) and
- How everyone will accommodate special situations like birthdays, holidays, and vacations.
The best parenting agreements are child centered. What this means is that parents agree to set their relationship issues to the side, and they focus their attention on each child as an individual.
For example, some children are easy-going with busy schedules, and others don’t handle change well. Some children have busy sports schedules, and so changing where they live during the week might not work well. In other situations, parents may live far enough apart that the parents will need to figure out how to “meet in the middle” every few weeks, have children live with one parent during the school year and with the other for summer, and some families will choose to have the children live with one parent for one or more years, then switch off.
Whatever you and the other parent choose to do, your agreement is more likely to succeed if your decisions are based on who your children are as people, and how, given what is happening in each parent’s life, you can ensure that each of you can play an important role as your children grow up.