Divorce for many used to mean that the wife got full custody of the children, provided the kids’ primary residence, and perhaps stayed home or worked less to raise them. The husband continued to work and climb the career ladder, striving to support two households.
That approach is less common now, with parents sharing custody and actively involved in the kids’ day-to-day lives. Parents may need to both work outside the home as well. So, these dueling work schedules combined with kids involved in various after-school activities means that a family plan must work collaboratively to balance a range of sometimes contradicting priorities.
What do they include?
The needs of each family are different, but key common considerations include:
· Custody: While physical custody indicates where the kids spend most of their time, joint custody does not mean an equal split of time. Instead, joint custody means each parent has an equal say on significant issues (medical care, religion, education, etc.) when raising children.
· Living arrangements: Kids are now more likely to move fluidly between each parent’s home. The schedule can be weekday/weekend, alternating weeks, every few days, or mid-week visits while staying in the other parent’s house.
· Holidays: This includes major holidays, summer break, regular family events, birthdays, and vacations.
· Contact with others: This involves guidelines and rules for visits with grandparents, aunties and uncles, and family friends. If one parent tries to restrict grandparent’s access, they will need to cite such valid issues as child safety and wellbeing.
· Disputes and modifications: The needs of the family will change over time, so they will need to modify their plan. It is also natural for parents to disagree, so there may be guidelines for addressing disputes.
Making the plan work
Sometimes the court decides custody and visitation issues. But, generally, parenting agreements drafted by the parent (and their attorneys) often are more workable and less intrusive because the parents create them and balance their work schedules and other outside obligations with the needs of the children.
Once the parents agree, they can submit it to a judge for final approval as part of the divorce or separately. An informal hearing to answer a judge’s questions may follow. Once they finalize the agreement, both parents are legally obligated to follow the agreement.