Negotiating a Parenting Plan can be difficult and tedious. However, as most Judges will explain to you, reaching a compromise regarding your children is far better than having a Judge decide your fate. Like everything, doing things right the first time around will help you greatly in the long run. Here are three things NOT to do when negotiating your Parenting Plan:
- Skim through it – this may seem obvious, but don’t skim through your Parenting Plan. You need to read your Parenting Plan. This isn’t a hoop you have to jump through to get to the end of the process; a Parenting Plan is a document that you will refer to over and over again, over the course of many years. The language is carefully chosen, and when there is a disagreement with your children’s other parent, you will refer to the language in your Parenting Plan first to resolve that disagreement. So be sure that you read everything, and understand everything, before you sign.
- Skip the specifics – you may be tempted to skip the specifics of certain issues, in an effort to get things done. But skipping things like specifically defining dates for holidays, procedures for tax deductions, child support, day care expenses, percentages and obligations regarding uninsured medical expenses and extracurricular activities, and other details will only leave room for arguments later, and additional Court dates. Draft into your Parenting Plan as many specifics as possible. Just because you draft in specifics doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible – it means that, if things ever become an argument, you have the language to settle that argument without having to ask for help from a Judge.
- Forget about the future – obviously, your child won’t be the age they are now forever. Things will change, and so too will your Parenting Plan. What works for you now will make no practical sense later, and you can count on that. So, be sure to draft in provisions with an eye towards the future. What will you do when your child has a choice of schools in the future? Will that choice of school require a modification of parenting time? Can you foresee any specific expenses that your child may need for their education or extracurricular activities? What about college expenses or big-ticket items like purchasing a car? Make sure you ask your lawyer what you can do to plan ahead, and how to draft that into your Parenting Plan.
Settling your case and compromising with your spouse is an admirable step in the co-parenting process. It takes a lot of time and energy, and even more patience. Make sure you know the details of your Parenting Plan before you sign. Contact me for a free consultation to talk about the details of your Parenting Plan.