How can we make parenting work for our family after a divorce?
As a divorce mediator, this is one of the biggest concerns I hear from my clients with children. When a couple decides that divorce is the best course of action for their family, they want to know if they can truly find a way to parent that works for both spouses, and the best interest of the child. It’s my job to help make successful parenting after divorce possible by working with them to create a parenting plan.
Sadly, most divorces through litigation fail to result in a parenting plan that leaves anyone happy. Ultimately, if the parents can’t agree, a court must step in and make tough calls. A total stranger decides where and how your child will live, choices that could radically affect your family forever.
As a divorce mediator, my goal is to help you think creatively to come up with a parenting plan that works for both spouses, and all children. One of the biggest advantages of divorce mediation is that it is a collaborative process. Any good divorce mediator will empower you and your spouse to work together and consider what is best for your child. A parenting plan doesn’t have to follow a formula. These plans can and should be as unique as your family is! No two families look the same, so no two parenting plans will look the same.
The primary purpose of a parenting plan is to know where your child or children will be at all times, and who will be in charge.
A thorough parenting plan answers three major questions about a child’s life:
1. Who will the child live with?
The first issue your family must decide is who will have physical/residential custody of the child. My personal philosophy is that custody should rarely be granted to one parent alone, and most mediators and family professionals agree. Instead, we work together to figure out how to make joint physical custody work, so that your child can spend time living with each parent. However, when push comes to shove, a child can only have one primary legal residence. This is the caregiver the child might live with 51% of the time.
2. Who will be making the major decisions in the child’s life?
The second issue your family must decide is who will have legal custody, which is the technical term courts use to describe who can make important decisions about the child. Most divorce mediators encourage joint, or shared, legal custody, based on the philosophy that both parents should have access to the child, and no one parent is better than the other. Both parents have input and influence in their child’s life. When parents don’t agree about a course of action, I encourage my clients to consider deferring to a mutually accepted expert. In other words, the “tie breaker” goes to a professional with experience to help decide the best course of action.
3. How will the child’s time and schedule be divided?
When it comes to determining a child’s schedule, it can easily feel overwhelming. There are a lot of factors to consider, from holidays to extracurricular activities to school events! As a mediator, my main goal is making the transition from one parent to the other as smooth as possible for the child, and maximizing “quality” of time for the parents. In other words, it’s not about making the time spent between parents “equal,” but rather, making sure that time with each parent has the potential to be meaningful.
Successful parenting after a divorce is possible — especially when a family is armed with a parenting plan that truly works for everyone! A divorce mediator helps you to create this plan by empowering you to unleash your own creativity and collaboration through the process.