One of the most difficult aspects of any custody proceeding involves constructing a parenting plan that meets the best interests of the children and satisfies the parenting skills and wishes of the parties. In order to help parents understand the different choices and considerations they face based upon family situation and age of children, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers prepared a research-based publication entitled, “Child Centered Residential Guidelines.”
We encourage all persons going through a custody proceeding to read the publication. It does not take very long, and it is divided into sections based on the age of the child and special family circumstances. It also contains an excellent self-assessment for the family.
We generally think of parenting plans in terms of distribution of time – who gets the child when and for how long. But even in a situation where parents share equal periods of custody time, the manner of arranging that time can vary significantly, with each variation offering differing advantages and disadvantages based on the needs of the particular child and the structure of the family.
The more a family can assess these different options and how workable they would be for parent and child, the better the family will arrive at an appropriate parenting plan.
Some parents who go through a custody proceeding will complain that the parenting plan seems too “cookie cutter” – a one-size-fits-all solution that gives the parents too little input into the process.
But parents have the power to eliminate the “cookie cutter” problem by working together, through their attorneys, to craft a parenting plan that meets each parent’s circumstances and preferences, but above all the best interests of the child.
Some basic questions to consider at the outset include: How much time does each parent want in a two-week period? How much travel time will be involved? How do the children handle transitions?
Which plan seems best adapted to the rhythm and activities of the children? Do any of the children have special needs or circumstances that must be addressed? How cooperative can each parent be in facilitating the parenting plan? How much personal, quality time can each parent provide? Ideally, the plan parents create should maximize quality time with each parent, minimize transitions and anxiety for the children, and minimize conflict between parents.
The more time parents put into crafting the parenting plan and anticipating issues, the better the plan will address those issues and not require lots of future modifications. Also, the greater the clarity in parent responsibilities and interpreting the plan, the more likely the plan will operate smoothly over time.
If you have questions about child-centered parenting plans, contact us – we can help.