There are many ways for divorcing parents to handle their parenting plan or custody agreement. Some parents negotiate or sit down at mediation to work out what would be best for their family. Some parents even work with a co-parenting counselor or therapist to help themselves adjust to this new format for their family.
Unless you want to give the final say about custody to the judge presiding over your divorce, trying to find arrangements that work for both of you is often a necessary step. You will usually need to agree on the following three issues in order for you to have a chance at creating a workable parenting plan together.
- You need to agree on rules and discipline
The discipline of children can often be a source of conflict between even those with a solid marriage. During a divorce, those differences in approach may become more pronounced.
You and your ex don’t have to completely agree on every detail, but you do have to have the same basic standards for the children. Consistency is crucial for a child’s development and the ability to adhere to the rules. Having the same rules for socialization, technology and curfew at both houses is usually the best solution.
- You have to have a similar understanding of how to fairly split special days
The general split of parenting time is important, but certain days tend to have more value to parents than others. Finding the right way to split up special events and holidays is key to future cooperation.
If parents have different cultural or religious backgrounds, they may not want the same parenting time. Different holidays fall on different dates, making cross-cultural parenting plans sometimes a little easier to navigate.
When both parents want the same holidays with the kids, you will have to work a little harder to find a way to split things up. Alternating holidays is a common solution, but you and your ex will have to talk to figure out what will work for your family.
- You need to both commit to keeping the kids out of your conflict
It is altogether too easy for divorcing parents to make divorce harder on their children by putting the kids in the middle. Asking the children to pick a favorite parent during divorce proceedings or belittling your ex to the kids can do a lot of harm to their relationship with you, their relationship with the other parent and even their self-esteem.
You and your ex will need to be on the same page about talking kindly about one another and protecting your kids from the divorce. While you may not have worked well together as spouses at the end, you can still work together well when sharing custody after your divorce if you put the children first.