When parents in Rhode Island decide to end their relationship, whether they were married or not, future cooperation may be the furthest thing from their minds, especially if the break-up was particularly acrimonious. However, they should understand that having children together means that they will still be a part of each other's lives, whether they like it or not. After all, there will be contact with regard to child custody and visitation schedules, but there is so much more. They'll both hopefully be attending their child's soccer games, dance recitals and graduations. Furthermore, even after the children are grown, there will be weddings and perhaps eventually grandchildren. Therefore, setting the groundwork for solid and civil communication and cooperation from the get-go is important.
The start of cooperation comes in the form of a parenting plan. Most of the time parents share joint legal custody. This means that parents will both be able to make major life decisions regarding the child. For example, what religion the child practices, what doctor the child sees and where the child goes to school are all major life decisions.
In addition, a parenting plan needs to address physical custody. Sometimes parents share physical custody, other times the child lives primarily with one parent, and the other parent has visitation on weekends. Keep in mind that holidays and vacations may disrupt the normal child custody schedule, so parents need to be prepared to be flexible.
Parents who take the time to thoroughly discuss all aspects of their parenting plan can avoid disagreements down the road. Also, a solid parenting plan serves as an example to others that the parents want to put the child's needs first. Finally, by creating a solid parenting plan, parents have the option to pursue mediation should future problems come up, rather than litigating every last disagreement.
A solid parenting plan is just the first step parents take with regard to working together as parents even though they are no longer in a relationship with one another. Not only does this benefit them, but it benefits the child who should not be subjected to further fighting. Children deserve to have a positive relationship with both of their parents, and a solid parenting plan can help make this happen.
Source: Huffington Post, "The Je Ne Sais Quoi of Sound Parenting Plans," Tara Fass, March 15, 2016