When two parents decide to separate, there may be mixed emotions, as well as uncertainty and unpredictability for everyone in the family—particularly the children.
As part of a dissolution of marriage in Colorado, you must submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. A detailed parenting plan reduces the risk of misunderstandings and disputes in the future about the rights and responsibilities of each parent. If both parents are unable to agree on a particular issue, then the court will issue a final decision.
No two families are the same, and so there is no one parenting plan that will meet the needs of every single family. The best possible parenting plan is one that is tailored to suit the individuals involved. While some parenting plans only incorporate terms for the next year or two, other plans plan far ahead into the future.
When proposing a parenting plan, there are several factors that should be taken into careful consideration. These include:
The child’s age
Children go through very different stages of development as they age, and these stages should be planned for thoughtfully.
The parenting schedule for a very young child, for instance, may not be appropriate for a child who is already in middle school. While an older child may have no issues with constantly moving from one parent’s house to the other, younger children may be better off living with a custodial parent and have short, frequent visits with the other parent.
Apart from the child’s age, a parenting plan should take into consideration a child’s physical, emotional, academic, and even social needs. A good parenting schedule will include provisions that can be adjusted as both the child and the child’s needs grow.
Distance between parents
When creating a parenting schedule, consider the distance between both parents’ homes. How far away are the parents’ homes from each other? Does one parent live closer to the child’s school? Does one parent travel frequently for business?
Parents that live near one another should make it possible for the child to maintain in frequent contact with both parents. Both parents can take turns providing transportation to and from school, and can work out a schedule to support the child’s extracurricular activities.
If the parents live far away from each other, a parenting schedule should make provisions for the other parent to have extensive parenting time during weekends, holidays and school breaks.
Relationship between parents
A good parenting schedule takes into account the parents’ relationship with one another. Did the marriage end amicably? Are both parents capable of cooperating and coordinating constantly with one another? Have there been past instances of domestic abuse or violence?
If the marriage ended agreeably, parenting time exchanges may be conducted face-to-face, and may occur in the parents’ residences. If, however, the relationship did not end on a good note or if safety concerns exist, then it may be better for exchanges to occur in a public place.
An ideal parenting schedule should be flexible enough to allow room for improvements and changes as time passes, and should include a detailed process for making any changes to it.
After all, the realities of executing such a schedule can never be fully realized at the beginning.
Ultimately, the most important thing to consider when creating a parenting plan is whether the child’s best interests are come first. A child needs stability, security, and nurturing during such a trying time, and it is up to the parents to provide this. If both spouses are unable to agree on a parenting schedule, seek help from a mediator, counsellor, or family law attorney.