The Benefits of Parenting Plans
Key Points
  • Parenting plans benefit both parents in that it can reduce any misunderstanding or conflict between parents.
  • If the divorce is particularly contentious, it may benefit both parents to have a very extensive, detailed parenting plan. This type of plan reduces the likelihood of having to go back to court.

After a divorce or separation, one of the major things that will need to be addressed when children are involved is a visitation schedule and custody. Divorced parents must rely on visitation (or what is now called "parenting time") and a parenting plan to fashion the parent-child relationship essential in child development. This routine has built-in liabilities.

A child of divorce carries a heavy load: he or she can seldom, if ever, be with both parents at the same time. At the least, each parent must reassure the children that they are loved and protected. The children often fall victim to two notions. One, they very often imagine that they are the cause of their parents’ divorce. Divorcing parents must assure young children this is not the case. Two, they often fantasize about the reunification of their parents.

After a divorce, the custodial parent, usually the mother, often finds that solo parenting leaves her harried, exhausted and drained. Even when a divorced father acts in good faith about support, solo mothers often dangle a paycheck away from financial collapse. In some divorces, a non-custodial father becomes an odd man out whose physical removal from the child makes him a visitor, not a parent. Even when a non-custodial parent shares legal custody, physical absence from the child’s daily life makes the job more difficult.

One of the unfortunate, but common, outcomes of non-custodial parenting happens when the parent remarries and has a second family with a new spouse. Very often, the non-custodial parent drifts out of the life of the child, who then blames him or herself for the loss of contact.

Because visitation time is precious, the non-custodial parent should use it wisely. Shared experiences make for memories, and memories, unlike "stuff," last and get better with time.

Moreover, divorced parents are often racked by guilt over the failure of their marriage, so they compensate by being excessively indulgent. Very often the children try to play one parent against the other, and because the parents are not present together, they cannot easily reinforce each other.

"Let’s have fun" can indeed be a dead weight around the neck of an outing when the non-custodial parent shows up for visitation, but parents who agree on a comprehensive parenting plan generally enjoy a more stable, predictable, and consistent life with their children. A plan like this reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and conflicts between the parents. Therefore, parents who have a detailed parenting plan typically experience lower legal fees and attorney costs, which are associated with high-conflict child custody disputes and protracted child custody litigation. 

Useful Online Tools

Suggested Reading
Creating a Successful Parenting Plan Creating a Successful Parenting Plan
This extraordinary book and computer disk offers separating or divorcing parents a sure-fire way to create a workable, practical parenting plan/agreement that is in the best interest of their children.

Author: Jayne A. Major, Ph.D.

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