Mediation and Collaborative Practice are useful tools for more than just divorce dispute resolution. Couples in an anticipated or ongoing relationship who are looking to amicably and respectfully create a set of rules together to govern that relationship are also well served by Mediation and Collaborative Practice. These sets of rules are known as Premarital, Postmarital or Cohabitation Agreements.
Sometimes parties are not married, not necessarily living together and not planning to be married. But they are the parents of children, and would like to have create a co-parenting arrangement that is in their children’s best interests and that works for the parents as well.
Sometimes parties have been previously married and divorced without a parenting plan, or divorced with a parenting plan they would like to revise.
It is always best if parents can remain flexible and put their children’s welfare first, but it can be helpful to both parents for a default structure to be in place that they can rely on.
A parenting plan is not simply a recitation of which days the children are with which parents. There are many other things that parents might want to include in their plan:
- Legal and physical custody
- Time sharing, including school breaks, summers, three day holidays, religious holidays, birthdays (of parents and of children), Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, transportation issues and the venue for the exchange of the children
- Parenting guidelines concerning religious instruction, discipline, food and diet, bedtime routines, tobacco and alcohol use around the children
- Medical and health care, orthodontia, counseling and therapy, how to choose providers, who is responsible for making appointments, who will pick up and care for a sick child
- Health insurance coverage and sharing of costs
- Education and extracurricular activities: choice of school, how to choose, sharing expenses, attending conferences and open houses, sharing information, choosing tutoring, summer camps, extracurricular activities
- Right of first option for care (if a parent is going to be on a trip during his or her designated time with the child, will the parent be required to ask the other parent to care for the children before asking anyone else)
- Communication with children while in other parent’s care
- Changing the schedule, whether or not “make up” is appropriate when time with the children is missed
- Supporting the children’s relationship with the other parent
- Traveling and relocating the child
- Special needs of the children
Many parents choose mental health professionals (co-parenting mediators) to help them craft their parenting plan, given their familiarity with family systems, communication and co-parenting issues. Other parents choose to have an attorney-mediator work with them, in that the Parenting Plan is also a legal contract.
Working with a financial professional can help the parties understand their finances and make better plans and rules to live by—and also take the fear out of the financial commitments they are making
The couple meets with the mediator to discuss
- Each person’s goals for the children;
- Each person’s goals for himself or herself as a parent;
- Each person’s goals for the other person as a parent; and
- Each person’s concerns giving rise to his or her belief that a Parenting Plan is needed.
The mediator usually drafts the Parenting Plan based on his or her discussions with the couple, and presents the first draft to the parties for their review and comments. Once the couple has provided their input, the Agreement is finalized.
If you are interested in mediation to help you to create a Parenting Plan, whether married, divorced, separated or otherwise, our professionals are trained to make this a productive and as positive a process as possible for you and the other parent(s) of your child or children . To learn more, contact any of these professionals, who would be pleased to discuss the various forms of mediation, how they work, and which might be right process for you