If you have recently learned that your spouse intends to file for divorce – or if you have made this decision yourself – you may feel as if the world is swirling around you. Whether the divorce is a dark cloud looming over you or a new chance for freedom, you can't escape the fact that you are about to face some major changes in your life.
Divorce has that effect. You may already see evidence of these changes if you are packing to move out or if your spouse is removing your name from previously joint accounts. You may be anxious about these differences and what they will mean for your future, but the most important adjustments to make involve the children.
Who knows your children better than you?
New Hampshire courts, like every other state, make child custody decisions based on those factors that promote the best interests of the child. You may find this confusing since the judge does not know your children well enough to understand what is or is not in your children's best interests. No matter how much testimony you or your spouse give, the custody ruling that comes from a judge will be logical and impersonal.
This is why the courts prefer parents to work out their own parenting plans that they then present to the judge for review and approval. Some of the critical parts of a parenting plan include the following:
- A schedule of when the children will spend time with each of you
- A balance of time with both parents
- Consideration for special events, such as birthdays and holidays, that may disrupt the basic schedule
- Arrangements for child support payments
- A plan for sharing child-related expenses apart from child support
- Agreement about how you will reach major decisions such as the education, medical care, discipline and religious upbringing of the children
- Additional issues that may be important to you, such as the children's relationship with extended family, their dietary needs or limited exposure to electronics
You may find that the advice of an attorney will help ensure you include all the factors that a court will expect to see in a complete plan.
Working through the elements of a parenting plan with your spouse will allow you to make decisions that you are more likely to sustain because they came from your own experience with the dynamic of your family. Additionally, parents who create their own parenting plan instead of adhering to a court-ordered plan often find they have laid the groundwork for a more amicable and cooperative post-divorce relationship.