When divorcing parents take the time to work together and develop a realistic custody agreement or parenting plan that meets their family’s needs, it can make navigating the post-divorce family life much easier.
A basic custody agreement or parenting plan generally includes the specific parenting schedule and calendar that can help parents determine exactly when they have the kids. It is also common for plans to include an outline of each parent’s responsibilities for transporting the children, as well as dates and times of the children’s health care appointments, school events and extra-curricular activities.
One of the primary benefits of a parenting plan is that parents can make it as specific and detailed as they wish or leave it flexible and merely establish default provisions in the event the parties are unable to reach a mutual agreement on something in the future. Here are some possible provisions that parents could include in their plan:
Provisions about communication and contact
Parents can include several rules about communication, including ones that prevent either parent from badmouthing the other in front of the children. While these are typically almost impossible to enforce, the hope is that by having such terms in an agreement, it will encourage parents to think twice before engaging in such behaviors. Another communication stipulation that parents can include is how parents can contact their child when they stay with the other parent.
Cellphones, FaceTime and electronic contact make this kind of communication much easier. Children and parents can maintain frequent and consistent contact through text messages, FaceTime or quick phone calls.
Including a provision like this can help support the parent-child relationship, even when the parent is not present, however, it is critical to ensure that each parent respects the other parent’s time with their children as well.
“No smoking” or “no drinking” rules
It is common to see warning signs in public places that state “No Smoking” nowadays. Parents can include a similar provision in their parenting plan.
For example, if one parent has a smoking habit, the parenting plan can include a rule that prevents them from smoking in front of the kids. The same kind of rule could apply to drinking alcohol as well. It is also possible to place reasonable limits on how much a parent can drink when the children are in their care.
This helps both parents model healthy behaviors for their children to follow. However, in cases where parents do not have specific concerns about this or want the freedom to make these decisions without interference from the other parent, such provisions may not be necessary.
Rules about future relationships
Starting a new chapter of life after divorce often involves a new romantic relationship. A new relationship can be healthy and fulfilling for the individual, but it can also be complicated when they have children.
Parents can outline guidelines for how they will approach future relationships, including provisions such as:
- When and how to introduce new partners to children
- New partners cannot live with the parent until they have been in a continuous monogamous relationship for a certain amount of time
- Partners cannot spend the night when that parent has custody of the children unless they have been in a relationship for a certain amount of time or have remarried
North Carolina parents can be as creative as they wish to be when making their custody agreement or parenting plan. They can cater it to meet their family’s changing needs to help both parents succeed in their roles after divorce.
An experienced family law attorney can assist a parent with negotiating and developing a custody agreement that is tailored to the specific needs of their family and can help reduce potential conflicts as the family moves forward.