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Parenting schedules: Failing to plan is like planning to fail

As a parent facing the end of your marriage, one of your biggest concerns is probably how the change will affect your children and your relationship with them. Even the most amicable of divorces can get complicated when kids are involved, as both you and your soon-to-be ex are likely already worrying about holidays and weekends spent apart from them, and figuring out who gets to see them when.

The good news is that you can address a lot of this uncertainty and worry by creating a parenting plan. But what, exactly, is a parenting plan, and do you need one if you and your ex-spouse have a decent parenting relationship?

Parenting plans

A parenting plan, also known as a parenting schedule, is a calendar to map out when your children will be with you and when they will be with your ex. You might think having something so strict is overkill, especially if you and your ex get along fairly well when it comes to the children you share. However, relations between the two of you may not always be so agreeable and if things should change, having an official court-approved schedule can be highly beneficial.

Additionally, you can -- and probably should -- try to think of your parenting plan like a set of blueprints for a structure, as opposed to a finished building. Plans change, things come up unexpectedly, and if you and your ex can be flexible and work together -- at least on parenting issues -- the schedule simply becomes the default plan you can fall back on. On the other hand, if you don't get along, a parenting plan is all the more important. So what makes a good parenting schedule?

  • Putting the kids first
  • Being realistic about the holidays
  • Considering vacations
  • Thinking logistically
  • Flexibility

When you put your kids first, it may mean doing what's best for them even if it's not necessarily what you'd prefer, giving up time with them to make sure they continue to develop a meaningful relationship with their other parent. Unfortunately, it likely will also mean spending some holidays alone; choosing who gets to spend which holidays with the children is typically one of the most difficult tasks when creating a parenting plan. It may involve a lot of alternating holidays or taking turns each year.

Especially when it comes to the holidays, parents and kids alike will probably need to adjust to the realization that you'll all be creating new traditions instead of automatically following old ones. The same can be said of family vacations; each parent deserves a chance to take a vacation with the children, even if scheduling week-long blocks is a challenge and interferes with the normal routine. This could be another incidence of ""taking turns"" where you and your ex alternate who gets first pick for vacation time each year.

Think logistically but be flexible

These last points may be the most important. When creating your parenting schedule, it's important to figure out the everyday details, like how work schedules and where you both live will affect things like mid-week visits and who picks the children up from school. Perhaps the most crucial aspect is flexibility. Life changes on a constant basis and work and personal issues can arise at the last minute. If you and your ex are able to cooperate and make adjustments, it will probably make both your lives a lot easier.

What if you need help or cannot agree?

Unfortunately, every relationship and every divorce is different, and cooperation and civility are not always possible. If you cannot collaborate with your ex to figure out a parenting schedule, or even if you're simply not sure how to begin, there are professional California resources available in Rancho Cucamonga and the surrounding area to help guide you through the process of creating a parenting plan the courts are likely to approve and to fight at your side for your parental rights.

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