As children grow and change, co-parenting plans often need to be updated to reflect the current situation. Whether due to new school schedules or a parent's work commitments, tweaking the schedule can make life easier on everyone involved. The following article gives some tips on how to approach making these adjustments.
September is an excellent time of year to hit the pause button on your parenting plan and rethink and retool it. The new school year has likely brought new schedules for your child. Sports, music, dance, school activities, religious classes, and scouting are all beginning in force and likely on a different schedule than they were last year. Your child is also a year older and may have different needs.
Sit down and map out exactly what your child's schedule is going to be for the next few months. Include school vacations, games, practices, concerts, club meetings, classes, lessons, and special events. Once you see everything written on one calendar it is a lot easier to think about how it will really work.
Teachers are reassessing your child, so it's a good time for you to do it too! First think about school and activities. How were his grades last year? Was there enough attention paid to homework? What was her stress level like? Did he do too many activities? Does she have time to add extra interests? Do you need to make changes to the activity schedule based on these thoughts?
Next consider the division of parenting time. Did you and your ex have enough quality time with your child? How did your child's schedule coordinate with the parenting schedule? Did your child feel comfortable with the parenting schedule? How did the transfers relate to his or her stress level throughout the year?
How did last year's schedule work for you as a parent? Were you driving around like a lunatic? Did you miss out on down time or weekend time with your child? Did you feel as though you could have shared time more fairly with your ex? Do you want more help from your ex with transportation to activities?
Co-parenting takes two, and so it's essential that you and your ex find a way to check in with each other about the coming year. It's fine to come to the meeting or conversation already knowing what you think should happen. But remember that you can only change the schedule by agreement (unless you head back to court), so you do need to talk to each other and make a decision together.
If you have some changes in mind, lay them out and give the reasons why you think this plan will work well. Try to emphasize that you're suggesting a change because it will work better for your child. Point out situations in the past year that didn't work well and mention the impact it had on your child. Be sure to also show your ex the calendar of activities and events that you've created and point out any problems or conflicts with the co-parenting plans (for example, soccer practice ends at 7 pm but your parenting plan says visitation starts at 5 pm or your child is on a travel team that will conflict with scheduled weekend visits).
If you're in agreement that the schedule needs a little tweaking, try to plan out one month together, then extrapolate that month forward onto other months, making small changes as needed, but always paying attention to the bottom line division of time so that you can maintain a fair share.
After you've lived with the new schedule for about a month, touch base about how it is working and make any tweaks that are necessary. With a little cooperation, you can refresh your parenting plan each fall to fit the growing needs of your child.
The following articles offer more information about co-parenting plans and what to consider in creating visitation schedules: