If you are a Wisconsin parent of minor children and you are getting a divorce, one thing you may need to think about is creating a parenting plan. Ideally, this document should go beyond simply outlining schedules and should also include agreed-upon guidelines about parenting arrangements and behavior.
Why a plan matters
The purpose of putting this much detail into a parenting agreement is to reduce conflict. While parents may think that they are effectively keeping conflict out of sight of their children, they may not realize that children can be sensitive to undercurrents of tension. A good parenting plan may require some difficult conversations to reach a consensus about how to handle various situations, such as children meeting a parent’s new partner, but in the long run, those conversations will make for smoother situations.
What to include
The parenting plan should clearly state the child custody schedule, including plans for such special occasions as vacations and holidays. Parents should agree on who will be responsible for such official matters as holding onto passports and talking to teachers. They may also try to come to an agreement about such things as bed times and screen time as well as about parental behavior, such as alcohol use around the children. Other possible topics of conversation include religion, maintaining the child’s relationship with extended family and what chores children might have.
It is also helpful if the parenting plan includes a plan in case parents are in conflict. For example, they might agree to see a mediator to resolve any issues.
Parenting plans can and should change over time as children get older and their needs change. By focusing on the best interests of their children over their own conflicts, parents can use it as a blueprint for successful co-parenting.