Now that summer holidays have started and kids are out of school, many parents are starting to plan activities to fill the extra time.
For separated or divorced parents, the beginning of the summer holidays means also creating a thorough parenting plan that coordinates who your children will be with and considers everyone’s responsibilities including work and extracurricular activities.
Creating a good parenting arrangement isn’t easy. In this post, we go over the basics of making a schedule that works for you, your ex, and your children.
Why Should I Make a Parenting Plan?
For some, a parenting plan can seem pointless and time-consuming, especially for parents who don’t follow a fixed schedule.
In reality, a thorough plan can be used to outline everyone’s responsibilities, which in turn can prevent conflicts and help manage obligations.
Keep in mind, however, that if your parenting plan was made with the assistance of a lawyer or a court, you may want to discuss modifying your plan with them as well as your ex-spouse.
Map Out Your Schedule
A good plan considers everyone’s schedule, which is why mapping out your responsibilities and any events is the first step to making your arrangements.
For instance, you may want to consider:
- Work: You and your ex-spouse’s work schedules will undoubtedly affect your parenting plan, which is why they must be incorporated in your arrangement. For example, let’s say your ex-husband works a rotation job (e.g. he works out of town for one week and is off the next). A good plan for your family would allow him to spend time with his children on his week off.
- Important holidays or days: Be sure your plan accounts for holidays. For example, your child’s soccer practice may be canceled if it lands on Independence Day. Likewise, be sure to discuss other important days, like a relative or friend’s graduation or wedding.
- Birthdays: This doesn’t just include your birthday, your child’s, or the other parent’s. You’ll also want to discuss other birthdays that could impact your parenting plan, including those of grandparents, close family friends, your child’s school friends, and more.
- Vacations: Vacations are difficult enough to arrange without accommodating a parenting plan. If you have a vacation in mind, communicate it to your ex-wife or ex-husband as soon as you can and adjust your plan as needed.
- School: Most parents do not have to consider school schedules during summer holidays. However, if your situation is unique and your kids are still in school, be sure to add it to your plan. You may also need to discuss transportation to and from your child’s school and other matters that could interfere with the plan, such as extracurricular activities.
- Special needs or accommodations: If your child requires any sort of testing, assessment, service, treatment, or therapy for school, a program, a hobby, or a medical condition, you’ll want to include it in your plan.
Consider Changes to Your Plan
Acknowledging everyone’s responsibilities is not always enough; a good plan will require compromise between parents.
For instance, if your ex wants to go on vacation during your visitation week, it’s best to be accommodating if you can. Cooperating by swapping visitation weeks, for instance, will help foster goodwill for the inevitable time when you need your ex to consent to a change to the plan.
It may also be beneficial to discuss potential issues or emergency situations, like what you or your ex-husband or ex-wife should do if your child hurt themselves and needed medical assistance. Depending on your custody arrangements, a Child Medical Consent may be needed to allow a parent to authorize medical treatment in the event of an emergency.
Record Your Parenting Arrangement
After scouring your schedule, establishing all the important dates, and confirming which parent will care for the children at what time, document it. Doing so will allow everyone to keep informed and will help ensure everyone understands and agrees to the schedule.
You can record your schedule in whichever way works for your family (e.g. on a notepad or in a Word document or calendar). Using an online calendar (like Google Calendar) is a good idea because it is readily accessible and can be easily modified to accommodate schedule changes.
Some parents also include their plans in their Separation Agreement as an additional guarantee that the plan was acknowledged and agreed to.
Make Your Plan Realistic
Creating a thorough parenting plan is no easy feat. There are a lot of considerations to make, such as where the children will spend each holiday or who will take the children to their extracurricular activities.
However, mapping out your schedule, being mindful and considerate of changes, and recording your plan will help you spend less time organizing schedules and more time with your children.