As you and your spouse plan your divorce, your central questions center around the kids. You figure that things like asset division should go relatively smoothly, and you care less about money than you do about the children.
The one thing you know is that you and your spouse want to share custody. You both aim to stay involved and you want to split up the duties and obligations of raising a family. You did that while you were married and you will do it after the divorce.
So, how do you create a parenting plan that works?
Focus on the kids
Your focus is already in the right place. The children are more important than anything else. Focus on their desires and their needs. The court often calls this a focus on the “children’s best interests.” You may have to put yourself second and hammer out a plan that makes their lives stable and happy as the marriage ends.
Think about their perspective
For parents, it’s straightforward to think about the divorce from an adult perspective. The key, though, is to think of it from your kids’ perspective. Use that to help you make decisions.
For instance, maybe you both plan to move, and it means the children will go to a different school. As an adult, you think it’s okay. There are good schools everywhere. You can pick one near the new house and keep it simple.
For kids, though, switching schools is a huge deal. They lose their friends. They lose their teachers. They don’t know anyone. They end up in different classes. They face the stigma of becoming the “new kid.” Remember how important these things are at their age, even if you have a different viewpoint.
Think about realities and logistics
Of course, there comes the point when you need to think about what daily life will look like. Think about your work schedules and other obligations. Consider childcare options and babysitters. Think about what schedule to use to switch the children from home to home. As much as you need to focus on the children, your plan also has to work with your life realistically.
Talk to them
With young children, you may wind up explaining the plan more than asking for input. If you have older kids and teenagers, though, sit them down and ask what they want. Listen carefully. Give them your attention. Find out what they hope the parenting plan looks like. It may differ significantly from what you thought they would want. Never make assumptions. Talk to them, listen to them and work at it as a family.
As you go through this process, be sure you know all of your legal rights.