December 7, 2020
One of the most important questions parents will be faced with during their divorce is: how do you wish to co-parent your children during and after divorce? For those parents who choose to participate in mediation, parents will work together to create a collaborative plan that details parenting time and child related responsibilities.
A key to developing a successful plan is keeping in mind that this document will have so much information entailed in it so it is important to write decisions down and in an organized way. You are not just deciding which days of the week the children will spend with a certain parent or what happens for parenting time during holidays, etc. Parents are essentially writing out a blueprint for the way their child will grow up and the more detailed the plan, the better.
Common topics parents often include in a co-parenting plan include:
Topics that are often overlooked, yet important, include:
1. Education – What kind of education do the parents want their children to have?
Something to consider is that some parents may feel strongly about having their children attend public school, where others may disagree and want their children at private school or parochial school. For college or trade school, which parent(s) will be responsible for paying these costs? Will co-parents share costs? Evenly or based on a percentage of income? Should parents establish and contribute to a 529 College Savings Plan? If so, how much and how often? Will one or both parents assist with college applications, school tours, and student loan applications?
2. Health Care – Parents will also benefit from thinking about and incorporating a section for their children’s health into the co-parenting plan.
Some parenting plans just discuss which parent provides the health, dental, and vision insurance coverage. A more detailed parenting plan for example, will also include:
3. Religion – Another topic to consider discussing during divorce and including in a parenting plan is religion.
There are so many different factors to take into consideration when building a co-parenting plan but the more areas of parenting that are discussed and agreed to can help resolve or avoid future disagreement.
In Massachusetts, co-parenting plans, because they are related to children, are always modifiable. Meaning, if circumstances change in later months and years, the co-parenting plan can be changed or modified, and updated. It is important to watch for what is working well for the children and what could be done different to help children thrive.
Are there topics you think a comprehensive parenting plan should address that are not mentioned above? Please share in the comment section below to help other parents and their children.
About the Author:
Ms. Belt is a co-mediator on MWI’s Court Mediation Panel and on MWI’s Divorce & Family Mediation Panel. As such, Macayla is available to co-mediate small claim, parent/teen, divorce, and other family matters. During COVID-19, services are provided remotely.
To learn more about Ms. Belt and her mediation work, click here.