It's tough being a parent. Children don't come with owner's manuals, and figuring out how to care for a particular child can often feel like being lost at sea. When a divorce gets thrown into the mix, the job may get even harder. You may wonder how to make the transitions ahead easier on your children and how to continue being loving and supportive parents even though the marriage has ended.
Fortunately, this may be the one time when you can have an owner's manual for raising your children. A parenting plan provides the foundation for how you and the other parent will raise your children after the divorce. Even though this is undoubtedly a difficult time in all your lives, it's also an opportunity to come together as parents and make conscious decisions about your children's futures.
Where to begin
Knowing where to start may feel like an insurmountable hurdle. For this reason, it might help to know that Texas courts make their decisions based on what is in the best interests of the children. Even though you and the other parent need to consider your own schedules and requirements through the process, putting the needs of the children first can keep you on the right track.
What issues to consider first
Once you come to an agreement that this process is about the children first, you can consider the following basic provisions common to all parenting plans:
- Dividing your time with the children
- Making decisions regarding the children
- Communicating with each other
Through making these basic decisions, you are establishing a baseline for how to raise your children after the divorce. Of course, even happily married -- or happily divorced -- parents do not always see eye to eye. Your plan also needs to include some ground rules for resolving disputes. Knowing the rules up front often makes them easier to follow.
Easier said than done
You may be thinking that completing the above tasks for your parenting plan isn't going to be as easy as it sounds. You're right. You and the other parent will benefit from sitting down to figure out all of the factors that need consideration before putting anything in writing.
You know your children better than anyone else does. Creating your own parenting plan allows you to think outside the box in order to keep their best interests at the forefront of your futures as parents. The kind of relationship you envision with your soon-to-be former spouse also has an impact on the structure of your plan. If the two of you can find common ground and make a conscious effort to work together, you can end up with a plan that makes everyone happy.
You may need some help
This process can prove overwhelming to many Texas parents, including you. Having the support of the right people can make all the difference. Family and friends may offer suggestions, but they often do so through their own perceptions, which may not align with those of either of you.
The collaborative divorce process has helped many couples design parenting plans that can stand the test of time. This happens because you receive the support and answers that you need from neutral third parties who can provide you with a perspective you may not otherwise receive. In addition to your attorneys, you may bring in child counselors and others who can review your situation, help you see both the good and the bad, and then help you come up with solutions that work for all of you.