One of the hardest issues to work out in a divorce is a parenting plan for the children. Ohio has two types of child custody. Sole custody is when one parent is designated as the sole legal custodian of the children. This parent has the authority to make all decisions for the children. Shared parenting, which used to be called joint custody, means that the parents work together to make decisions about the care and upbringing for the children. According to the American Psychological Association, joint custody is better for children. Children whose parents can work together after a divorce have higher self-esteem, better school performance and fewer behavior problems than those in a sole custody arrangement.
Our attorneys encourage couples going through a divorce to collaborate in a shared parenting plan. Creating this plan involves discussing the following elements:
1. Scheduling - Which parent gets what times each week? Don't forget to mention holidays, school vacations, summer vacations and special occasions. You might also want to discuss what happens as the child ages and begins to play sports, gets a job and has more activities with school or church.
2. Expenses - Who pays for extra expenses? Who pays for school expenses? Sports? Etc.
3. Decisions - Will one parent have the authority to make healthcare decisions? Essentially, decide which parent makes which choices.
4. Communication - How should parents get ahold of each other? Some families use an app designed specifically for co-parenting. It has a shared calendar for activities to help keep everyone on schedule. You should also discuss what type of communication is expected.
5. Rules - Although each parent can and should have house rules, there may be times when it's appropriate to have the same rules at different houses. What happens if the child gets in trouble at school when he or she is with one parent, but the next day goes to be with the other parent? Work these things out ahead of time, and you'll have fewer problems later.
6. Drop offs/pick-ups - Discuss how the children will be exchanged. Who handles travel costs? How much notice should be given for travel plans? You might even want to include what happens if plans change.
7. Parent disputes - You will disagree in co-parenting. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't co-parent. It simply means you need a plan to resolve those disputes. You might want to have a mediator to help you through specific problems. Or you could regularly meet with a counselor who helps you both stay on track.
8. Social media - This is becoming a bigger issue in divorce. What types of pictures of the children can be posted? Should the children have their own accounts? Work this out in your parenting plan.
Many times, the biggest reason people argue is because of different expectations. The more you can work out in a parenting plan, the less you have to argue over later. Let one of our experienced divorce attorneys help you negotiate a plan with your spouse to keep your children from becoming pawns in a divorce.