Today having a child with someone you are not living with is becoming quite common. More and more, people are deciding that marriage and cohabitation are not prerequisites to parenting and coParenting.
When this occurs, important questions need to be addressed. Who pays for what? When will the child stay at each home? Who will provide transportation? Not to mention the host of other issues that pop up. Will there be consistency with mealtimes, bedtimes and screen time (access to TV, Computers, and and handheld devices) between the homes? How will holidays and vacations be divided between parents?
Having a child custody order in place protects the rights of both parents, allows for the child to share time and have a relationship with each parent, and can reduce conflict with time share and other parenting issues. During my time as a Family Court Recommending Counselor, I learned that most child custody orders were filed when the parents were not able to work through parenting issues. More often than not, numerous arguments had already taken place and matters were compounded with the involvement of extended family members. The strong emotions and escalated conflict that developed as a result, lessened the likelihood that the parents would come to an agreement.
The truth is, before tensions rise, parents can work together with or without a private or court connected professional to help them develop a parenting plan that includes the following:
- Parenting time
- Vacation schedules
- Payment plans
- Household expectations
- Clear guidelines of expectations
Agreeing to work together and putting a plan in writing early on can save time, money and stress and allow you to avoid the rush of negative thoughts and emotions that are usually connected with this process. Avoiding a bitter court battle will also reduce the stress, fear and anxiety experienced by both parents. In addition to the resources available at your local courthouse, there are a number of books and coParenting resources that can help you with this process.