If you're going through a divorce, then you know how much your life is changing; you don't need anyone else telling you about it. At the same time, though, you also need resources to help you navigate those changes, and that is why it is important to learn what is out there to find ways to acclimate to your new lifestyle. That means knowing which costs and financial hurdles will be included in your child support calculation. It also means understanding how to go about budgeting for the resources that are not in that calculation, and it means finding a way to co-parent effectively with your ex so that your time with your children is fairly distributed. That is where a parenting plan comes in.
Basic elements of most parenting plans
Since raising children and making choices about their future is a point of contention and stress for many divorced couples, it is important to create a situation that you will be able to navigate when tensions rise. That means the plan needs to clearly state who is in charge of making certain decisions or covering certain expenses. When those decisions and expenses come up, this allows the parent whose responsibility lies in other areas to call for a decision, and it allows the parent who is responsible for the decision to act without worry about stepping on a co-parent's toes. There are also many people who choose to make certain items the responsibility of both parents together, to make sure that they are weighed carefully.
Areas that basic plans tend to cover include:
- Paying for extracurricular activities, either as a class or individually by activity
- Medical expenses that are not covered by child support
- College savings
- Vacation plans and travel with friends and people outside the family
- Expectations regarding academics and communicating with teachers
- Establishing baseline rules that apply to both homes
Customizing your parenting plan
Different families have different needs, and that leads to parenting plans being flexible and living documents. Don't be afraid to reach outside the basic expectations of the plan and to include other elements as you think of them. Also, don't be afraid to revisit the plan if adjustments need to be made in the balance of responsibilities between you and your spouse. Michigan has recommendations about parenting time that should be incorporated into most parenting plans as well, and following them is a good way to make sure your children receive a balanced amount of attention from both parents.
Divorce can be difficult to navigate, but when you use clear communication and you work together to organize your efforts, it becomes easier to make the transition work for your family.