Child custody is one of the most contentious issues in family law. If you and the other parent of your child are separating or divorcing, your goal should be to devise a parenting plan that reduces stress while protecting your child’s best interests. Cohen Family Law offers some practical tips.
First things first: understand what parenting plans do
Before you can design a parenting plan that minimizes conflict with the other parent, you need to understand what these agreements actually do. Judges expect the parents to submit an agreed-upon plan to the court that will protect the best interests of the child while also resolving such matters as:
- Whether the parents will share joint decision-making authority (legal custody) or one parent will have sole authority
- Each parent’s rights and responsibilities over the child’s care, education, healthcare, and religious upbringing
- A parenting schedule, including holidays and vacations
- A procedure for transporting the child for custody exchanges
- A method to resolve proposed changes, disputes, and alleged breaches of the agreement
- A procedure for periodic review of the plan
- A plan for communication between the parents
What follows are some tips for how the parenting plan can reduce conflict with the other parent.
Parenting time and legal decision-making
- It should be clear which parent will have the child on which days and at which times. This includes regular parenting time as well as for special events such as holidays, birthdays, and vacations.
- The schedule should be drafted in a way that minimizes the number of exchanges that must take place between you and the other parent. The less often you have to interact with the other parent, the less likely there will be conflict. For instance, it is better to allow the other parent to pick up the child from school instead of from your home.
- Maintain as much consistency and simplicity as possible. If the parenting plan is overly complicated, with varying schedules built into it, one or the other parent will make a mistake and possibly trigger a dispute.
- Leave no room as to which parent shall have which responsibilities regarding the child’s religious upbringing, education, healthcare, and other matters of significance. The less cooperation that is required, the less room there is for conflict.
Transportation and exchanges
- Specify the precise date, time, and location where the child should be picked up and dropped off. Allow a small but reasonable grace period for both parents.
- Arrive at the pick-up/drop-off point a few minutes early so the other parent can’t complain about you being late.
- If face-to-face exchanges are necessary, arrange them to take place at a public location such as a library or police station.
- When dropping the child off with the other parent, make sure the child is ready to go. The child’s personal belongings should already be packed, for instance, so the exchange is not delayed.
- It’s important to allow reasonable communication between the child and the other parent when the child is visiting you. But there should be limits as to time and method of communication, and those limits need to be stated in the parenting plan.
- Specify exactly how and by what method(s) you and the other parent are to communicate regarding the child. Make sure that any such communications are limited to matters regarding the child.
- If possible, limit communication with the other parent to text, email, or some other written form. Knowing that the communications are written can deter bad behavior since texts and emails can show up in future court proceedings.
- A conflict resolution method should be included in every parenting plan. This specifies exactly how alleged violations of the parenting plan should be addressed. When used correctly, this element can prevent or de-escalate the conflict.
- Consider choosing mediation as the conflict resolution method. In that case, specify the name of the mediator (if possible) and how mediation fees should be split.
- Use mediation or another conflict resolution method to also address requested changes to the parenting plan. No plan is written in stone, and periodic review is one of the necessary elements.
Help With Your Phoenix, Arizona Child Custody Matters
No parent wants to endure the unnecessary stress of conflict with the other parent. Every parenting plan is different, but each one should strive for reducing the likelihood of disputes. You will probably need additional terms in your parenting plan besides those listed above, based on your unique custody situation. Cohen Family Law is ready to guide you. Call us today to get started.