Your Parenting Plan can help ease the transition after a divorce

A comprehensive parenting plan can help make your life easier after a divorce by providing clear guidelines for your interaction with your child's other parent

Any divorce is unsettling. It is unsettling, in that it is the legal process that separates two people who were married. Much of the process will be concerned with the dividing of the marital assets and property. But if you have children, there are some aspects of your life that cannot be divided. You will both always be parents to that child and will remain bound together, in your effort to provide care for that child.

This can be challenging. You have decided to divorce because your relationship with your spouse has failed in some way. You may feel betrayed, anger, bitterness or nothing. Whatever the reason, you wish to go your separate ways. Making agreements, even when they are about your child, may be difficult.

Child Custody

Within your divorce, you will need to create a custody plan. In New Hampshire, these are known as Parenting Plans. Custody includes "legal" custody (decision-making responsibility) which deals with decision-making authority of the parent concerning matters of health and welfare, such as choosing schools, medical treatment and religion.

"Physical" custody (residential responsibility) is where and how much time is spent with each parent. Like most states, New Hampshire favors joint decision-making responsibility and shared parenting time, as that allows the maximum amount of participation by each parent.

If neither party can agree, the court will impose a child custody order on the couple. The much better solution is for the parents to work together with their attorneys and develop a parenting plan that is mutually acceptable.

The Parenting Plan

The parenting plan will be your guide to raising your child. It can be fairly basic or it can be extremely detailed. The amount and degree of detail your plan will require will depend on many factors, but the more thoughtful and comprehensive your plan, the better both parents will be able to cope with the challenges of raising a child after a divorce.

It should include important elements, such as the residential schedule of where and when the child will be with each parent. It should list out every potential holiday, family celebration, vacation or school break throughout the year and employ a fair and reproducible method of allocating those dates.

A benefit of this process is that it will force the parents to review their calendars and determine in advance the times they wish to spend with their child. Having this in place can greatly reduce the potential for conflict and disputes between the parents.

The plan should also work through all of the other details of life, from where parents will live, how they will transport the child between them, dispute resolution procedures and actions for resolving one parent's failure to comply.

Because parents may need to relocate during the life of the custody agreement, the parenting plan should identify how far a parent can move from their current residence before it triggers a modification procedure to alter the agreement, including notice periods.

Having a procedure that allows for change is practical and important. If your child or children are very young, the arrangements that work best at that age may no longer be appropriate as they reach the teen years, and the plan should be flexible and permit mutually agreed changes to be put into place.

Best interests

The touchstone of any parenting plan in New Hampshire is the best interests of the child. Research has shown that children do best when they feel safe and cared for, and that in most cases, this is produced when both parents have frequent and continuing contact. Of course, in cases of domestic violence, such contact will be limited or eliminated altogether.

One very important factor is the elimination of conflict between the parents. You may not "love" your former spouse in the way you did when you married them, but you should respect your child enough to maintain a civil and productive dialogue with the child's other parent.

They will sense conflict, no matter how well you think you have disguised it. Your ability to work with your child's other parent is perhaps the greatest way you can demonstrate you understand what is really in your child's best interest.

An attorney from Clark Law PLLC can help you with this very complex process, answering your questions and helping you think through all of the details necessary to create a parenting plan that will benefit your children and you.