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Parenting plans: A roadmap for your post-divorce family's future

The process of ending a marriage is a stressful time for anyone, but divorcing as a parent brings with it extra challenges and worries. There are a host of issues to address and since they all involve your children, there's that added pressure to make sure you fully cover every possible eventuality. The good news is that you can relax, at least a little.

With some experienced guidance to help along the way and a checklist for basics, you and your ex can address the majority of the parenting issues you're likely to face and even outline how you and your co-parent will handle any unforeseen situations that may arise unexpectedly. Of course, cooperation and communication between divorced parents goes a long way toward a smooth parenting experience for all, but even when that's not possible, a good parenting plan can even help you resolve issues with minimal conflict.

Basic topics to address

From the major - health care needs and education - to the seemingly minor - what time your child will eat dinner every night - parenting plans can address a wide variety of decisions. You may feel overwhelmed initially, but the important thing to remember is that the parenting plan exists to help ensure your children's continued well-being as they grow.

If you can keep that in mind, you can concentrate on making sure every issue addressed remains focused on your children's best interests. To that end, some basics you'll want to cover include:

  • Parenting schedule
  • Schedule changes
  • Special dates and holidays
  • Vacations and travel
  • Expenses
  • Important decisions

The parenting schedule is the primary foundation of any plan, as it will determine how your children split their time between your home and your ex's. There will likely need to be special accommodations for holidays and other meaningful occasions, and you'll also want to include stipulations on how and when you and your ex will handle schedule change requests and last-minute emergencies. If applicable, you may even wish to deal with trips and family vacations.

A good parenting plan will also address who will pay - and how much - for child-related expenses and cost-of-living issues, including, but not limited to, medical and education expenses, extracurricular activities, and the costs of necessities such as food and clothing. When discussing issues like health care and schooling, you'll want to go beyond cost and address how you and your ex will make these important decisions and others, such as matters relating to discipline, religion and more.

Communication

While it may seem excessive, you may wish to include outlines for communication - between both parents and with your children - in your plan. When your children are staying with you or your ex, you'll want to make sure they have a way to stay in touch with their other parent; remember, the person may be your ex, but he or she will always be your child's parent and your children need to know they can reach out at any time.

Perhaps equally important is determining methods of communication between you and your ex, outlining what types of decisions and information require discussion, and how best to keep conflict to a minimum. Limiting hostility when communicating to resolve issues that relate to your children can go a long way toward minimizing negative consequences that may affect your kids, even unintentionally.

Drafting your parenting plan

Of course, every divorce - and every family - is different, so you will likely have other issues particular to your own situation for which you'll want to account. Luckily, if you live in Florida, there are knowledgeable professionals in the Tavares area who can provide invaluable insight and guidance to help you prepare a well-written parenting plan, one that will serve your family well in its new circumstances and act as a map for your future.

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