If you are getting divorced and have children 18 years old or under, you will have a parenting plan as part of your divorce judgment. A parenting plan establishes the schedule for the children’s care, the manner in which decisions regarding the children’s health and welfare will be made, and the support arrangements for the children. It is essential to develop good parenting plans and collaborative divorce is a process that provides a great deal of support.
Even parents who are able to cooperate in sharing the children’s time will need a parenting plan. Your ability to agree with the other parent today doesn’t guarantee that level of cooperation in the future, particularly as the parents recouple, move, or experience other changes in their lives. The parenting plan establishes the fallback arrangements if the parents are unable to agree.
The collaborative divorce process provides parents with substantial support and expertise to assist them in establishing a parenting plan. Each collaborative professional team includes a mental health professional whose job includes giving the parents guidance regarding children’s developmental needs, and who can offer hints and suggestions on crafting a workable parenting schedule that takes into account the children’s ages and unique circumstances, along with the parents’ work and travel schedules and other potentially challenging issues that make fashioning a parenting plan more difficult.
For cases in which the issues surrounding the children are more complex, the collaborative team can be expanded to include a Child Specialist who can delve more deeply into the parenting issues by interviewing the children as well as counselors, child care workers, medical personnel, and others having knowledge about the children’s needs. The Child Specialist brings this information to the parents and assists them in coming up with a plan suited to the family’s unique needs.
Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor; no single plan suits all families. The children’s ages, health, and mental and physical conditions and limitations all need to be taken into account. Both parents’ needs and desires are also factors that must be dealt with. The Collaborative Process provides a forum for discussing these issues and the professional support, based upon experience and training, that will assist parents in coming up with an effective and practical plan.
Review the Collaborative Family Law Association's website for more information and to locate a list of mental health professionals and child specialists, trained in the collaborative divorce process. Many professionals in the Collaborative Family Law Association offer an initial consultation at no charge, so you will have an opportunity to determine how parenting plans and collaborative divorce can help you in the divorce process.