Protecting your children during a divorce can feel like an uphill battle. Both you and your ex are likely striving to shield the children and also to demonstrate your love and affection for them during this tumultuous time. You may be so focused on dealing with the immediate circumstances of your family during the divorce that you put off or fail to give proper attention to one of the most important ways to protect your family in a divorce.
The parenting plan that you and your ex negotiate during the divorce will guide the way that your family interacts for years to come. You should begin thinking about the creation of a parenting plan as soon as you realize that divorce is likely part of your family’s future.
You and your ex need to agree on structure and rules
Every family has its own unique means when it comes to visitation and parenting time. You and your ex will need to work to find a custody arrangement that fits your family. Whether you alternate weeks, alternate days or have something completely different as the structure for your schedule, it will need to be a situation that you agree to.
The same is true for important considerations like holidays and vacations. You need to have rules and structure in place so that everyone in the family knows what to expect. Many families choose to alternate holidays between parents. Other families may assign all the holidays for one year to one parent and to the other the next.
In some circumstances, your family could even commit to a joint holiday celebration, provided that everyone does their best to make things work. What’s important is that the rules are clear and that both parents commit to following them.
Prepare yourselves for the inevitability of conflict
You probably wouldn’t want to divorce if you weren’t already experiencing some kind of conflict with your spouse. You are likely going to have to deal with conflict while creating your parenting plan and while working together as co-parents after your divorce.
One of the smartest things that you can do is to agree on a conflict resolution process early on in the divorce. Many couples choose to use written communication when emotions run high. That can prevent you from saying things that hurt your relationship. It also provides a written record of any agreement. Couples often include a cooling-off period after arguments or a specific process through which they can resolve a disagreement.
A good parenting plan makes it easier for you and your ex to abide by the same rules, which can reduce the conflict and stress your entire family experiences in the divorce. Even if you are able to set your own terms for parenting and asset division, you should still discuss your situation with a family law attorney to ensure you aren’t making any mistakes that could impact your rights in the future.