What is a parenting plan?
If you are divorced and you have a minor child with your former spouse, according to Chapter 61 of FL statutes you are required to have a document called a “parenting plan” that outlines when and where timesharing will occur with your child and the other parent. Typically, the parenting plan can be developed by you and your former spouse, the judge, a mediator, or between your attorneys. This document can be changed or modified if necessary through the court.
There are situations in high conflict divorces, where parents will undergo something called a “Social Investigation”, also known as a “Child Custody Evaluation”, which typically evaluates the shared parental responsibility, decision making, time-sharing, of the family.
Why would my parenting plan have flaws?
In the height of conflict in divorce, it can be easy to overlook flaws in the parenting plan! Sometimes, the plan can look great on paper, but it won’t really be realistic or work in reality. Here are some things to look for:
- Are you constantly asking the other parent to change times, dates, or duration of visits?
- Are you and the other parent not really following the parenting plan?
- Is the child verbalizing dislike of constant moving from one home to another
- The parenting plan causes conflict between you and your former spouse
- The parenting agreement is no longer age appropriate for your child.
- The parenting plan no longer accommodates your career, child care needs, or your child’s school schedule
How can it hurt my child?
For a child who witnessed a divorce, it is important for them to know consistency and for them to see you and your former spouse working as a team. Depending on the age of your child, it may not be the best idea to have them move between 2 houses twice week for time sharing.
Recent studies show that 50/50 timesharing isn’t entirely realistic, nor is it “good” for the child. One of the more important factors to realize is that timesharing should realistically occur in weeks and not days. This will prevent the child from moving from your home to your former spouses home too much. A child who witnessed a divorce needs consistency, and moving their clothes and belongings twice week isn’t exactly consistency.
Some children may begin verbalizing their resistance towards going with the other parent for timesharing. It may not be because they don’t want to see the other parent, it could just be that they don’t want to have to pack up their clothes and belongings and move again!
I have 50/50, how can I make the moving back and forth easier on my child?
Here are some tips on how to make it easier for your child:
- Make sure the child has their own room at both homes that he or she helped to decorate or put together. You want them to feel at home, no matter which home they’re at.
- Encourage the other parent to purchase clothing to prevent the child from having to pack each time they go with the other parent
- Decorate the child’s rooms with belongings from their original room.
- Talk to your child and empathize with them if they feel overwhelmed with the moving.
- Making the moving fun with movie nights when they come over, or making a fun dinner to have them look forward to coming over.
- Don’t make the moving back and forth seem like hassle for you. Don’t get us wrong, it can really get tiring for you, but imagine what its like for the child!
- Bottom line, make the timesharing positive and exciting for the child!
I’ve tried everything, but my child still doesn’t seem to be happy with the timesharing.
Divorce can be a very scary thing for children. It is very normal for children to experience a wide variety of emotions and behaviors following a divorce, especially if it was a high conflict divorce. It is always a good idea to get a mental health professional to speak with your child. Although many parents may fear therapy, it may be very beneficial for their children and it may soothe many future issues they may experience as a result of the divorce.