Parenting Plan Mediation … a “Custody Plan”

“Divorce / Separation signals the end of an intimate partnership for adults, not the end of a family  for children.”

You will need a parenting plan (sometimes called a “custody plan”) when your intimate partnership changes through separation or divorce and your children will no longer be residing in only one household. You will also need a parenting plan if you have never lived together and do not intend to live together in one home while parenting and you want to establish a parenting plan as part of a paternity action. In most areas, a parenting plan is a required legal document for completing a divorce.

Building a strong, child-centered parenting plan provides you both with a somewhat predictable and consistent residential schedule for your kiddos in two homes. A well crafted and thoughtful parenting plan can take the guesswork out of navigating the new terrain of co-parenting in two homes.

What’s best for kids?
Two good-enough parents loving and caring for them
in one home or two free from disruptive conflict.

When parents are capable, children benefit from a fully engaged relationship with both of their parents. In designing your parenting time or residential schedule, you’ll explore whether a primary schedule that provides children a single home base with one parent and visits to the other or a shared schedule where the children experience a “sense of home” with each parent reflects your post-divorce vision for you, your co-parent and your children. Your parenting plan also establishes protocols for decision making and conflict resolution, as well as addresses a myriad of other provisions unique to you and your family.

Co-parent mediation provides an excellent venue for parents to sit together and work through their residential schedules, parenting plan agreements, resolve misunderstandings and parenting conflict, and design a strong, child-centered parenting plan for their children while respecting each other as parents. Here are a few cornerstones of facilitative parenting plan mediation:

  • Mediation is voluntary and confidential.
  • Parenting plan mediation focuses on the unique needs of all family members and their situation and is tailored to meet those unique needs and achieve the best possible outcome for kids and co-parents.
  • Parents make the decisions—not the co-parent mediator. A co-parent coach and mediator, I bring my 30+ years of experience with families to assist parents to consider the developmental appropriateness and practicality of their decisions.
  • If you intend to file your mediation agreements with the court, I strongly urge participants to review agreements with an attorney before signing and submitting them to court.

There are times when one or both parents or a child faces complex circumstances that make the post-separation / divorce landscape complicated. When that’s the case, parents are encouraged to discuss openly and fully their concerns with the mediator to determine if mediation is the best process for their circumstances.

When a new romantic partnership has formed and will have a bearing on the children and co-parenting relationship, I encourage the parents to consider not only completing their parenting plan, but also a “Stepparent Plan” to alleviate the confusion and stress often associated with adding a new member to a family system.

How can you prepare? There are two resources that help parents prepare for their mediation (saving time and money) and build a shared understanding on how to determine a residential/custody schedule and parenting plan.

If you would like a fillable PDF of The Parenting Plan Worksheet, request here and I’ll be happy to send one your way.