Parenting plans play a vital role in custody disputes, laying out the terms for how co-parents conduct themselves and further their child(ren)'s best interests.
Most parenting plans have mandatory clauses, but parents usually have a degree of flexibility when designing plans. Taking advantage of that versatility can help you and your co-parent develop a custody arrangement that facilitates a better family dynamic and helps your child thrive. Today, we're covering what you need to include in your parenting plan in 2020.
Reducing Conflict Using Ant-Disparagement Clauses
Even if you and your co-parent aren't on the greatest terms, it's in you and your child's best interests to make the co-parenting dynamic as conflict-free as you can.
One of the traps many co-parents fall into is (often unintentionally) creating a dynamic where the child feels "torn" between their parents. This usually happens when a child feels like they have to "take the side" of a parent during a familial conflict.
You can help prevent this by including a clause in your parenting plan prohibiting you and your co-parent from disparaging one another in front of your child. This allows you to keep conflicts between yourselves, disentangling your child from disputes you have as co-parents.
Of course, you should put reasonable restrictions on anti-disparagement clauses. If your co-parent engages in behavior that's obviously inappropriate (like over-disciplining your child), you should feel able to support your child and let them know you don't condone your co-parent's actions. But a more general anti-disparagement clause can be a fantastic tool in any parenting plan.
Avoiding the "Good Cop, Bad Cop" Dynamic
Another trap many co-parents unwittingly fall into is creating a "good cop, bad cop." dynamic.
This typically happens if the parents have different boundaries. For example, let's say you expect your child to spend at least two hours a night on their schoolwork and encourage them to maintain good grades. In contrast, your co-parent has no requirements for how long your child should spend on homework or what sort of grades they should get.
Incongruent boundaries between co-parents can quickly create familial conflict. Whichever parent has the stricter boundaries may feel like their co-parent undermines their authority or goes against their child's best interests. Conversely, the parent with laxer boundaries may feel as though their co-parent puts too much pressure on their child.
You and your co-parent should honestly discuss and agree upon:
- Behavioral boundaries;
- Academic expectations;
- Discipline techniques you'll use;
And whatever other boundaries you think are important for your child. Once you agree on boundaries, make them an official part of your parenting plan, so they're set in stone. Obviously, as your child matures, you'll need to re-evaluate boundaries, but incorporating them into the custody order is a great way to foster a healthy family dynamic.
Consider Itemizing Costs
Co-parents often split paying for significant costs, like health insurance premiums. However, that's not always the best move.
Splitting costs can get tricky if a parent isn't able to pay for a bill one month, saddling the other parent with the responsibility for the payment. Instead, consider itemizing costs for benefits like health insurance. It will be easier to budget for costs if you control the entire payment.
Itemizing costs can also make establishing an equitable child support arrangement easier. Costs like health insurance often factor into child support payments, and itemizing them makes it easier to calculate accurate child support obligations for the noncustodial parent.
There you have it! Three things you can do to make your parenting plan more manageable in 2020.
At the Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we help parents navigate child custody disputes with confidence.