Parents help each other and work together to raise their children, but that becomes more challenging after and during a divorce. Once the parents live in separate households, they must learn how to share their kids.
If you can both agree to joint legal decision-making and divide parenting time equally, it would be in the best interests of your children. However, that can change drastically in cases where either parent has a history of child abandonment, child endangerment, substance abuse or domestic violence.
Co-parenting your kids with an ex can present many opportunities for disputes. It would help to get everything in writing by creating a feasible and legally enforceable parenting plan.
The importance of an effective parenting plan
Preserving a positive and continuing relationship with both parents is essential to your children’s emotional and social development. Therefore, Arizona laws value each parent’s legal right to parenting time and decision-making. A parenting plan will explicitly outline the following:
- Parenting time: According to Arizona law, parenting time “means the schedule of time during which each parent has access to a child at specified times.” Your parenting plan will include specific dates of when your children will stay with you and when they will stay with the other parent. Establishing how you will share parenting time early on is crucial, especially because parents typically fight over who gets the kids over the holidays, weekends or summer breaks. You can alternate and distribute parenting time fairly.
- Legal decision-making: According to Arizona law, a parent with legal decision-making authority has “the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decision.” The parenting plan also describes each parent’s rights and privileges. You can make it so both parents will decide on these matters together or distribute the decision-making authority according to who has more expertise or experience on a specific issue.
The parenting plan sets expectations, thereby reducing the potential for conflict. It fosters predictability and consistency throughout the lives of your children.
Customizing your parenting plan
A parenting plan can also include where you will pick up or drop off your children and how you will manage the exchanges. You could have one parent responsible for transporting the kids. It can also have provisions on the methods and technologies the children will use to communicate with each parent. It is your parenting contract, so you must ensure it protects your rights to your children and their best interests.