On behalf of The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A.
Have you ever counted the number of decisions that you and the other parent make regarding your child each day? Has your child earned the right to stay up later? What discipline is appropriate for your child’s transgression? Should your child watch that movie or is it inappropriate at this age?
Parents make all of these decisions and more across Florida on a daily basis whether they are together or not. Couples who are married or live together often make these decisions together when the situations come up, but what happens when your relationship with the other parent ends? A plan needs to be made for handling these situations, regardless of which parent the child is.
The Parenting Plan
Like most other couples who divorce or separate, you probably realize that you need to address custody and visitation. Without a doubt, these issues need addressing, but so many more issues also require your attention as you design your parenting plan.
If you and the other parent can work together for the good of the child, you retain the freedom to create a plan that fits your family best. The two of you can tailor it to your needs and the needs of your child. Your plan can include as many details as you wish and can even include a way for the two of you to resolve conflicts since no two parents agree all the time.
Beyond Custody and Visitation
Most children thrive on routines and schedules. Especially during a time when things change and their one home becomes two, they could cling to their routines whether they realize it or not. The more continuity you and the other parent provide, the better the chance that your child will adjust to the new family structure. To that end, you may consider outlining the “rules” for the following situations and needs:
- Daily routine
- Bedtime rituals
- Illness of the child
- Extracurricular activities
- Special needs
- Schedule of overnights
- Child care
- Visits with other family members
- Holidays and birthdays
- Distance between homes
- Duplication of toys, clothes, and other items
- Doctor, dentist, or other appointments
Creating consistency between your two homes requires consideration of each of these issues. If one parent allows the child to stay up late but the other enforces a certain bedtime, your child could become confused. It could also create tension between you and the other parent. Agreeing on these matters ahead of time, in writing, could help avoid any unnecessary conflicts while ensuring that your child has what he or she needs on a daily basis.
Of course, your parenting plan should account for exceptions on special occasions or any other time when deviating from the established rules is appropriate. In addition, you and the other parent need to decide how to handle issues as your child ages. For instance, as your child approaches driving age, how do you decide who teaches him or her to drive?
Legal and Other Professional Assistance
You and the other parent would more than likely benefit from involving others in your decision-making processes, such as an attorney and counselor. You already know this is a difficult adjustment for you, so it isn’t hard to imagine how difficult it may be for your child. The decisions that the two of you make now affect your and your child’s future.
In addition, you want to make sure that your parenting plan passes the scrutiny of the court. You can think outside the box, but certain boxes still need checking in order to receive court approval. A Florida family law attorney can help ensure that your agreement passes the legal requirements and does not somehow violate public policy or seem unreasonable to the court since its primary concern is the best interests of your child.