If you and your spouse are considering divorce, you should know that any agreements you can make yourselves will be beneficial. Taking an issue like child custody and visitation to court costs money, is stressful, and just extends the divorce process for weeks longer than it needs to be. Setting aside your differences and creating a co-parenting plan that addresses the issues that you care about most can turn a bad situation into a more hopeful one. Read on to get some tips to create a smooth transition for you and your children.
1. Sit down with your spouse with the expectation that you will begin working on issues that are easier to deal with first. These things might be educational and school choices or vacation-custody plans. This sets the stage for the trickier issues later by creating an atmosphere of collaboration for the good of the children.
2. Take both of your work schedules and demands into account when deciding on primary physical custody and visitation plans. Trying to overcompensate by over-scheduling doesn't make sense and only creates stress.
3. Keep the plans as simple as possible; divorce already creates upheaval in a child's usual routines, so try to stick to easy routines if possible. Be especially careful about complicated visitation scheduling on school nights. For example, it may be simpler to stay at one parent's home during the weekdays and leave visitation for the weekends and school holidays.
4. Be ready for emergencies and get some back-up ready to help with sick days, times when you have transportation issues, and snow days. Grandparents, trusted friends, or neighbors that you can call on at times like those are invaluable.
5. Very young children should not be burdened with the adult responsibility of making major custody and visitation decisions. Be wary of letting older children make too many decisions around these issues. Their viewpoints should be heard, but you and your spouse should make the final decisions.
6. At first, your children may balk at being told what parent they will be spending time with. Try to be understanding and to allow them as much autonomy as possible to speak by phone with the other parent, if necessary.
7. No matter how simple your parenting plan is, you can expect some minor chaos given how busy children can be with school activities, social obligations, classes, sports, and more. Shared online calendars and some new "divorce" apps can help you deal and be organized.
8. Regardless of whose house the child goes to sleep in, try to stick to the same meal, homework, and bedtime routine. Children actually thrive on routine; it makes them feel more secure, and security is something everyone needs.
Consult a law firm such as Gomez May LLP for more tips.