Using a Strong Parenting Plan to Avoid Conflict

Your parenting plan is the piece of the puzzle that is going to inoculate you from most of the causes of the conflict. Your parenting plan must include specifics of the day of the week and the time of the day for the pick up and drop off. Be specific – not after school. If kids are not always in school, we need a time. Sometimes, that actually means when it’s summertime or vacation time. It needs to be absolutely specified so when the police show up, you can say, “Here it is.”

The child pick up and drop off should preferably be at school, or daycare or a neutral third party site.  It should specify who is okay to pick up the kids from school or from any other activity that they’re involved in.

In every parenting plan the holiday schedules need to be specific about when the holiday starts and ends. “So, I got Thanksgiving – great. Thanksgiving is my holiday.” When does Thanksgiving start and when does Thanksgiving end? Does Thanksgiving mean when they get out of school on Wednesday to Sunday night, or Monday morning? Do you get four days or does Thanksgiving mean only Thanksgiving Day? And if it means Thanksgiving Day, does that mean from 8 am to 6 pm, or from Wednesday night to Thursday night or from Thursday morning to Friday morning. What time?

Your parenting plan needs to be specific. You need to get detailed, as detailed as you can possibly get so there’s no argument. The biggest outbreaks that I see in high conflict custody pieces are over lack of clarity in the parenting plan.

A day here, a day there, an interpretation in the parenting plan that somebody thinks is one way and the other person thinks it’s another. If there’s something you fought over in the past, get a mediator. Get somebody to sit down and figure it out. Write it in. Make an amendment. Change the parenting plan. Get it done so you don’t encounter the problem again because if you faced it once, you’re most likely going to face it again.

Make a summer schedule if it’s different from the school. The same things apply. Vacations get scheduled. How many weeks are there going to be and can they be concurrent? When parenting plans are written, they’re hardly concurrent. They create problems that kids are too far away from the other parent for too long.

And then, if we’re looking at a week on/week off type of a situation or an even split, somebody ends up with three weeks or there’s a huge adjustment to the schedule that has to occur. We want to keep some continuity. So, that week of vacation where somebody goes someplace should be that parent’s week primarily. This way, no one does two weeks in a row.

If the parent goes on an extended vacation and has two weeks with the children each year, decide ahead of time whether they can take their two vacation weeks with the children consecutively and if they can, already have in place how you’re going to balance that equation. It should be already written in the parenting plan.

What is the remedy if that occurs, if you agree that that can happen? Write provisions for trading weeks in case there is a family emergency. Then, clearly define what a family emergency is. To me, it’s very limited. It’s a death or severe accident in the family; it’s a wedding in the family – those are emergencies.

These are things your children need an opportunity to be a part of as it impacts their entire life. It includes things that are a big deal or a once in a lifetime opportunity that they’re not going to get another chance to do. It’s something that can’t be rearranged. Grandma just dropped tickets on us for a trip to Europe. It’s a freebie. They’re going to go to Paris, they’re going to go to Barcelona and they’re going to go to Greece. Here’s an opportunity for them to see the world and it’s on your week. Are you going to stop them from doing it because it’s on your week even though it’s a big event?

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