If you are going through a separation and planning to co-parent your children, it is advisable to have a parenting plan or a parenting order in place.
A parenting plan is a written, signed and dated agreement between two parents regarding the care of their children.
Note that a parenting plan is not a legally binding document. However, it can be submitted to the Family Court for approval, it then becomes a parenting order which both parents have a legal obligation to follow.
We strongly recommend that parents create a parenting plan at the time of separation.
Here are eight good reasons why.
BOTH PARENTS HAVE A SAY
Working with your ex-partner to create a parenting plan, gives both parents an opportunity to contribute and have a say in their children’s upbringing.
It can help parents cope with the transition to shared care, where they are learning to relinquish control and need to know their children are safe and well cared for.
Not only that, this simple act of working together and making compromises is a healthy start to the co-parenting journey you have ahead of you.
CREATED FROM A PLACE OF CALM
Co-parenting is a challenging path for many families. There are lots of important decisions to be made, each of which is a potential disagreement.
Taking your time and working on a detailed parenting plan with your ex-partner from a place of calm is the best way to avoid heated arguments down the track.
Use this opportunity to document how you will deal with future decisions around issues such as:
- How special occasions will work, such as birthdays, Christmas, Easter
- Education including current and future schools
- How costs will be shared
- Medical issues, dentistry and health insurance
You can even document the process you will use if you have a disagreement and how you will work through it to find a resolution.
CONSISTENCY FOR THE CHILDREN
One of the biggest benefits of a parenting plan for your children is that it encourages consistency in their upbringing when they are living between two homes. This has a positive impact in many areas of children’s lives.
According to Very Well Family:
“Consistency in terms of structure and routine provides limits and boundaries for children. These help them to organize and integrate information into their brain and gain an understanding of how the world works.”
It is particularly important in the early days of the separation while your children are adjusting to their new normal. Knowing their parents are always on the same page will make them feel secure and loved.
A MORE AMICABLE CO-PARENTING RELATIONSHIP
Having a guide to follow as you navigate co-parenting with your ex-partner is conducive to a healthy, peaceful relationship.
Why wait until you are forced to make important decisions that you may not agree on? Get ahead, discuss and then record your preference or compromise in a parenting plan ahead of time.
Anything that encourages a courteous co-parenting relationship works in favour of your children’s welfare, health and happiness.
Further reading: Common disagreements between co-parents and how to avoid them.
THEY ARE KID FOCUSED
A good parenting plan focuses on the needs and best interests of the children.
This may sound obvious but if you and your ex have a disagreement and emotions are running high, it is easy for one or both of you to lose sight of the main objective … the kids.
A parenting plan revolves around the well-being of your children and will guide you back to the fundamentals of your co-parenting relationship.
BOTH PARENTS ARE ACCOUNTABLE
An effective, fair parenting plan ensures both parents are accountable for the raising of their children.
This is a good thing.
Once a parenting plan is drawn up, both parents know exactly where they stand, and what they are accountable for at any one time.
It takes a lot of guess work, blame and confusion out of co-parenting.
THEY ARE A BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO COURT
Working together on a parenting plan then following through on it, is one of the most effective ways of keeping the peace in your co-parenting relationship, and ultimately avoiding extremes such as a day in the family court.
It is not unusual for simple disagreements to escalate, then for one party to engage lawyers, which can quickly spiral to an expensive checkmate.
Remember, if your parenting case goes to a family court, the decision on how to raise your children will be taken out of the hands of both parents. It will instead be made by a judge, who is a total stranger. Do you really want that for your children?
Get on top of co-parenting by creating a fair parenting plan that is realistic to follow by both parents.
PARENTING PLANS ARE CHANGEABLE
Don’t worry … parenting plans are not set in stone.
It wouldn’t work if they were.
Children grow up fast and as they do, their needs change. As do the needs of the parents as their lives naturally evolve.
For this reason, a parenting plan can be changed at any time by making another written agreement which is signed and dated by the children’s parents.
A good way to ensure consistent and realistic updates are made to your parenting plan is to note a date in the current plan when you will both review it and suggest changes.