One of the most challenging issues families face is setting up a parenting plan that gives children access to both parents as they grow older. This works best if you and the other parent can maintain an amicable relationship, even if you have had disputes in the past. Whether you and the other parent are seeking a divorce or were never married in the first place, a parenting plan gives you the ability to establish a schedule and set expectations for your children.
According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, a parenting plan is essentially a written document that includes all agreed-upon arrangements regarding your children. If you and the other parent are unable to reach an agreement on your own, a court may need to make these decisions for you. Judges and court officials consider a number of factors when doing so, including where each parent lives, the kids' current educational and religious circumstances and needs, health care issues, the parents' financial situations and any other matters that might impact the children's health and wellbeing in both the short and long term.
Some people feel that a parenting plan is unnecessary because they generally get along with their children's other parent and don't foresee any complications arising in the future. Even if this is the case, it's important to establish some guidelines for how you will raise your kids together, split between two households. It can be difficult to modify parenting plans in the future, so it's important to set up a sound arrangement from the start.
Meeting children's physical and emotional needs
As you work through setting up a parenting plan, there are several issues the state of Colorado suggests addressing to ensure children's day-to-day needs are met, no matter where and with whom they are spending their time. Ideally, kids will have enough time to establish strong bonds with both parents, which is particularly important when it comes to building self-esteem and teaching children to respect boundaries through balanced and consistent discipline.
Additionally, children should be able to safely move from one household to the other without experiencing high levels of conflict, and each parent should be careful to avoid speaking poorly of the other and trying to pass messages through the kids.
It's also worth noting that the American Psychological Association has studied post-divorce effects on children, and results from a 2005 analysis found that kids tend to do better when they are involved in parenting plans from the beginning. According to the APA, children who have had input into these plans report significantly higher levels of satisfaction later on. In addition, kids in joint custody arrangements typically enjoy better overall health and wellness than those who live primarily with their mother.
Depending on your circumstances, establishing a parenting plan can be either simple and straightforward or challenging and hampered by disputes with your children's other parent. For the guidance and advice you need when dealing with these issues, speak with an experienced Longmont family law attorney.