Setting up a strong co-parenting plan

Following on from a divorce or separation, if you and your ex have had a child together, quickly laying down the law with each other is key – not just for your own sanity, but in order to help you both co-parent with each other in a way that is strong, effective and consistently prioritises the well-being of your child.

Taking the time to write up a parenting plan together might seem a little bit surreal at first, but it will actually provide you both with a fantastic, dependable and firmly positive focal point that can be used as a way of governing your actions. A parenting plan can help you both to quickly and fairly resolve disagreements, and ensure that your co-parenting (both now and into the future) practices ultimately help your child feel as happy in this new stage of life as possible.

What is a parenting plan and what benefits does it bring?

In essence, a parenting plan is a document that two separating parents have written up and agreed upon together. This plan will cover all of the practical issues that may arise when you are acting as co-parents and outlines the key details of what can be expected from this arrangement.

The whole idea behind this is to limit any conflict – both in private discussions between you both, and any tension, bitterness or anger that could be witnessed (or sensed) by your children.

So, a plan for your co-parenting would, to put it simply, include what you and your ex need to do for your child, so that you can co-parent them in a way which keeps their best interests at the forefront of your mind. It will also provide a useful list that sets out exactly what your child should (and will) be able to depend on their parents to provide them with.

The benefits that this plan will bring to your co-parenting practices will make all of your lives (for you, your ex and your child) infinitely easier:

  • Amidst all of this turmoil, stress and pressure, in some moments it will be easy for you to forget to put yourself in your child’s position and consider their perspective. Precisely for these moments, this co-parenting plan will provide you with a great, helpful point of reference. It will help you to make sure that, in all of the co-parenting decisions that you make, you are always prioritising your child’s needs.
  • This plan will minimise the need for you both to go to court, should there be any disagreements in the future. By clarifying any key arrangements that you both need to establish for your child after you have separated, this plan ensures that these key practical decisions are clear and finalised.
  • Both you and your ex (and possibly your extended families too) will know exactly what is expected of you and this will enable you to consistently fulfil those expectations. You will both be reassured in the knowledge that you are always doing the best by your child.
  • By creating this all-in-one formal plan together, it means that it can be used as a handy reference point that you can both go back to to clarify anything, or use to clear up any disputes.
  • This parenting plan will help you and your ex to go about redefining your relationship – now that you are co-parents instead of partners.
  • It outlines what your child needs from you, both as individuals and as a collective co-parenting duo, to ensure that they live a happy and healthy life.
  • It is flexible – your plan can be revised, updated and altered to suit you both (so long as you both agree on the changes, of course) should there be changes in your circumstances, or as your child gets older, the nature of what needs to be detailed in this plan will change.

All in all, by helping you to improve your communication and lay down these ground rules, this plan will go great lengths towards enabling you both to lay down the foundations for strong, dependable and amicable co-parenting.

What does a typical parenting plan normally include?

If you’re writing up a parenting plan together, it can be quite difficult to know where to start. Of course, due to the nature of what you’re both trying to agree upon, it will involve a wide range of different things to agree upon, including routine matters (like, for example, where your child will go to school) and bigger-picture things to consider.

So, below, we’ve provided a helpful list of key pointers to consider including in your parenting plan. You can alter and tweak this list, take things out and add things in, so that it exactly suits your unique co-parenting needs.

The main things that you should discuss and include in your parenting plan are to:

  • Make an agreement, first and foremost, that your child will be at the centre of any decisions that you both make about either of your lives in the future.
  • State that your child will be able to know, speak to, see and have a relationship with both of you, as well as both of your families.
  • That your child will be financially protected by the both of you, and will not have to experience the pressures of any adult concerns, and that you both accept your responsibility for this.
  • That you will both protect, encourage and support your child throughout their life, and that they will know just how much they are loved by both of you.
  • Details of your child’s living arrangements and other information like where your child will go to school
  • An outline of the finances that you will both contribute to support your child
  • A plan for how you will both share key information about your child and continue to communicate with each other into the future.

As we mentioned above, no two parenting plans will be the same. The idea of a co-parenting plan is a flexible one, that is designed to cover all of the key details, potential discrepancies and matters that are important to you. It will be unique, so spend some time thinking in advance – and possibly speak to your solicitor too – about what you would like your plan to include.

How can me and my ex go about writing up a parenting plan together?

You and your ex can set about drawing up your parenting plan by either making time to sit together and write it out in person or, if things are still a little tense between you both, this document could be drawn up over the phone, via email or online.

If you and your ex are struggling to create a parenting plan independently, you could seek the help of a mediator. A mediator will provide an unbiased, neutral aid to govern your discussion, and help you both to create a formal, practical parenting plan that will suit you both.

There are plenty of other fantastic online resources to assist you with your parenting plan. Help and information is available from organisations such as:

Co-parenting, although it necessitates a change in your relationship, does still mean that you and your ex will have to continue to work together, even after what will have been a challenging divorce process. In order to help you both best navigate this new parenting territory, writing up a co-parenting plan together is a great way to go about establishing the key principles at the heart of your co-parenting intentions.

Article Created By Josephine Walbank

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