Dear Dr. Jann,
My daughter’s father and I are newly divorced and we are trying to design an equally shared Parenting Plan for her. She goes to preschool in the mornings. We have no idea where to start. Do you have any suggestions?
Dear Newly Divorced,
Thank you for reaching out for help. This is the first step to creating a better coParenting relationship for your kids. I have highlighted a few questions for you to consider.
- Was there a primary caregiver or did both parents share in the child’s upbringing prior to the breakup?
If one parent was the primary caregiver, automatically expecting a child to immediately adjust to an equally shared parenting plan is asking a lot. Your daughter is used to her room and neighborhood and possibly pre-school. So, to upset what she is used to right after a break-up is not in her best interest. In those cases, a step plan that slowly works into overnights with the parent who was not the primary caregiver would be recommended. If the parents shared parenting responsibilities prior to their break-up, then an equal custody parenting plan would be appropriate.
- Work schedules.
Any parenting plan takes the parents’ work schedules into consideration. A child starts school around 8 am. If a parent works the graveyard shift where he or she is not home at night or he or she must leave for work earlier than 8 am, then overnights during the week may be impractical.
- Distance between homes.
parents live too far away from each other, then again, overnights during the week may be impractical.
- Distance from home to school.
If at all possible, parents should try to live in the same school district so they can pick up and deliver their child from school and the child is not in the car for hours at a time before or after school.
- Look at situations from your child’s perspective.
It may be difficult to come to an agreement with your ex, however, if you look at it from your child’s perspective, coming to an agreement might be easier. Your child wants to feel safe and loved, always keep that in mind.
- Make clear boundaries.
Transitioning from a marriage dynamic to a single parenting dynamic can be quite challenging. Make sure you and your coParent set clear boundaries with one another and your child. This could range from pick-up and drop-off commitments, communication preferences (call, text, email, etc), who will be in charge of medical appointments, who will take the child for haircuts, etc. Communicating and setting boundaries about what you expect from one another is key, especially in the early stages of divorce.
- Use a service to help you create a parenting plan.
There are many services out there to help you create a parenting plan. You can hire a mediator, get help from family members, utilize family court, or use a coParenting app. Whichever you choose, you have an abundance of professionals by your side, ready to help you through this process.
The goal is to design something that doesn’t take your child away from either parent for great stretches of time—and work on your ability to problem solve with your coParent so that the transitions from house to house are as stress-free as possible.
And lastly, remember to keep your child’s lifestyle as close to it was before the separation as possible.