However, by agreeing the terms of a parenting plan, divorcing and separating parties can account for their children’s needs in a working document that is flexible, adaptable and helps manage the most difficult as well as the most important aspects of the parent/child relationship.
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Advantages of a Parenting Plan
For many divorcing or separating couples, sorting out the arrangements for children is the issue which is likely to cause most anxiety, emotional out-lay and acrimony. However, going straight to court in order to seek a child arrangements order is not necessarily the best action.
A family lawyer can help you understand your rights when negotiating issues relating to children and a parenting plan is a really useful place to start in agreeing how you will move forward in your relationships.
A parenting plan can:
- Help to provide stability for children
- Reduce conflict
- Show a parent’s commitment to the best interests of children
- Be flexible
- Help keep legal costs down
- Help parents avoid having to go to court over children
- Provide a reference point for the future
What Does a Parenting Plan Do?
When parents draw up a parenting plan, it will undoubtedly be linked to their needs as parents – and sometimes to other relevant parties such as grandparents – however, any successful parenting plan should always put the child or children at its core and be focused on their best interests. As such it will typically concentrate on the following practical concerns:
- Living/residency arrangements (formerly known as custody)
- Visiting arrangements (formerly known as contact)
- Health and wellbeing
- Parental roles and responsibilities
A parenting plan which includes the above can be useful if the parents wish to seek a child arrangements order as it can help when completing a C100 application and this will demonstrate to The Court that the parents have thought reasonably about the best interests of the children.
How to Approach a Parenting Plan
As anyone who has ever experienced the breakdown of a marriage or long-term relationship can attest, it is easy to let stress and emotions cloud your thinking as you try to split your lives.
When preparing to make a parenting plan, you should take time to reflect on your priorities and those of the child or children. You are one of two parents – both of whom have equal rights under the law – so it is inevitable that you will not be able to have everything your own way. Focus on the things you care most about – for example, birthdays, Christmas and school holidays – and prioritise them in order of importance to you. This ensures that you only ever expend time and energy on the things that matter most, rather than finding yourself locked into a cycle of argument for argument’s sake about who has the children on Pancake Day.
Listen with Interest
It is undoubtedly in your interests to listen to the interests of your ex-partner. This may be difficult at times, but if you can listen impartially, you should hopefully both be able to process your former partner’s requests and understand how they could fit in with your own needs.
At the earliest stage of negotiating a parenting plan, you don’t have to make a commitment; simply take stock of what has been said and work out what it may mean for any future agreement.
Sometimes, amongst all the angst, hurt and recrimination of relationship breakdown, it can be easy to become bogged down in emotions. However, the reality is that child arrangements are practical matters that must be sorted out.
As such, you should be clear and specific when talking about dates, events and practical arrangements. It is very hard to achieve your aims unless they are clearly defined. As such specificity is everything: if you want your child to be with you over the summer holidays, be specific about the dates – this gives you a clear position to work from and a definitive point for both parties to work from.
The Tactical Concession
It may sound like an overtly political move, but there is much to be said for conceding something in order to get something else back. By being prepared to make concessions on some of your former partner’s points and requests, you will hopefully see a similar response on the part of your ex-partner. After all, compromise is at the heart of any successful agreement, so if you are prepared to be flexible, then it could help smooth the process.
Find the Family Lawyer who is Right For You
Instructing a family lawyer is not purely about taking things to court or fighting aggressively for what you want. In fact, a family lawyer can help in all manner of ways when it comes to achieving a parenting plan and successful arrangements for children; from helping to facilitate the mediation process and helping you understand your rights to drafting a plan that could be put before a court in the future, if necessary. A family lawyer can help you establish an agreement that upholds your rights as a parent.
With family lawyers in London and the across the South East, Wellers family law team can be there to help you make plans for your future with your children in mind.
Contact our office in Bromley today to arrange an appointment with a family law solicitor on 020 8290 7992. For our Surrey team call on 01372 750100, for Sevenoaks the number is 01732 457575 and for central London please call 020 7481 2422.