The traditional vision for raising a child involves two married parents - each pitching in with feedings and diapers, sharing play time and reading bedtime stories, and later helping with homework, and attending school events as a family. You and your spouse may have even achieved this vision for a brief period of time. Now, however, you have decided to divorce.
How can you and the other parent keep putting your child first now that you are living apart from one another and in two different homes?
Things to consider when drafting a parenting plan
Psychologists say that, in general, a child needs the following three things in order to experience a happy childhood:
- The BASICS - food, shelter and social support;
- Love, stability, emotional responsiveness, and fair discipline from both parents; and
- Adequate time with each parent.
As you negotiate a parenting plan, you want to construct a plan that can foster an atmosphere in which both parents engage in positive co-parenting. Consider the following:
- Include school time and play time for both parents and include time for both parent to participate in events and activities that are important to the child. If your post-divorce relationship with the other parent allows it, you can include plans to attend events and activities together.
- Do not let the end of your marital relationship or the negative feelings you may have about the other parent keep you from thinking positively about him or her as a loving and supportive parent.
- Do your best to cooperate and compromise, but include a specific means of resolution should a dispute arise between you.
- Allow that your routine and your child's routine will be different post-divorce - focus on those days or times or activities that are most important for you and your child, but remember that those same times and activities may be important to the other parent. Not everything can stay the same as before your separation and divorce.
- Give yourself and the other parent the time and freedom to recover from the emotional turmoil of the divorce in order to be emotionally available for your child. Remember that two people going through a divorce are often in two very different places emotionally. If you are the one that has been thinking about and planning for divorce, you may be miles ahead of the other parent emotionally.
Keeping these things in mind will help you construct a parenting plan that creates a new vision for your family. Meet with a Northern Virginia family law attorney to help draft and negotiate a parenting plan that works for you and your family and that meets the court's requirements concerning custody and visitation so that you can continue to spend your time and energy providing the best possible home for your child.