Divorcing Couples and the Parenting Plan Balancing Act

Divorcing Couples and the Parenting Plan Balancing Act By Susan Ingram

{3:18 minutes to read}

For separating and divorcing parents, often the biggest concern they have is how their children will fare through this difficult process and going forward.

While none of us can look into our crystal ball and predict the future, it is clear from research that the #1 factor that causes harm to the children of divorcing couples is the amount of conflict between their parents. The more intense the conflict, the greater the likelihood of harm to the children.

During our mediation sessions, I help couples work out the details of a parenting plan that will be included in their settlement agreement. The plan outlines how parents will raise their children after the separation or divorce. Typically, the goal is to make the plan specific enough so that it includes the important details of the agreed-upon arrangements, while building in a degree of flexibility regarding changes that may need to be made in the future.

The Balancing Act

As the mediator, I’m involved in somewhat of a “balancing act.” My goal is to help the parents arrive at a plan that is in the best interests of their children and also works well for the parents, given the realities of each of their circumstances.

The balancing act can be challenging at times. My couples may state that they want to share equal (50/50) time with their kids. Yet, this statement might not match the realities of their situation.

For instance, the mother in one of my divorcing couples, had a very demanding work schedule and during our discussions came to realize that she could not handle the demands of a 50/50 parenting arrangement. While the father was designated as the residential parent, the couple agreed that the mother would have the kids for additional vacation time during the year.

And while I’ve stated that the plan should be as specific as possible, sometimes that’s just not feasible.

I’ve had a number of couples where one of the partners had a job for which he or she frequently had to be on-call for emergencies. One father worked for the power company and covered storm outages and other emergencies. In the agreement, I stated up-front that, because of the father’s work situation, the parents understood they had to be flexible with the father’s parenting time.

The mediation process creates an especially supportive setting for a couple to discuss their parenting issues. While the mediator helps the parents identify what arrangements are best for their children, the mediator also supports the parents in figuring out what will pragmatically work for both of them.

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