Unless there’s a dangerous situation in your family, such as neglect, addiction or abuse, it is highly unlikely that the Pennsylvania courts will choose to award sole custody to one parent over the other in a divorce. Instead, as the courts want to focus on the best interest of the children, shared custody is usually the preferred outcome.
In order to make parenting as straightforward as possible, many divorcing couples will create a thorough parenting plan. You can submit a parenting plan to the courts as part of an uncontested divorce filing or create one after the courts outline their division of custody in the case. Knowing what you need to include in your parenting plan will make the process of creating one that works for your entire family easier.
Obviously, the parenting plan must address shared custody
Finding a way to split up parenting time isn’t always as easy as you might think. What works perfectly for one family can be incredibly difficult to achieve for another. Some parents alternate weeks, while others may split each week evenly. Some families are capable of having shared holidays together after a divorce, while others will alternate and split holidays between parents.
The approach you take when creating your parenting plan should stem from the current needs of your family. Considering the professional obligations of each parent, the percentage of parenting time each parent has and how custody needs will change as your children age will make it easier to create guidelines for shared custody that will withstand the test of time.
Parents should agree on important issues concerning their kids
The parenting plan isn’t just a document that states who gets the kids when. It should also guide the relationship between the parents and the children. A good parenting plan should include agreements between the parents regarding what they want for or expect from their children and each other.
Rules about acceptable forms of discipline, clearly communicated expectations about academic performance, rules or hopes about religious observances, and other personal, social, educational and medical issues need to receive adequate attention during the creation of a parenting plan. When the parents agree on all of these critical terms, it becomes easier for them to parent as a unit.
A parenting plan should have rules about communication and conflict resolution
The earlier in your divorce you create a parenting plan, the more important it is to address the emotions and contention of divorce in the document. Having rules for calm, safe communication, as well as an outline of expectations for custody exchanges, can help the parents avoid behaving in a manner that is stressful to one another or damaging to the children.
In the event that circumstances arise that the family hasn’t yet addressed in the parenting plan, there should also be rules for conflict resolution. Whether you want to work with a mediator or a counselor, a third party can provide perspective and guidance on disagreements between parents sharing custody.
By addressing the practical, emotional and social issues that arise during divorce in your parenting plan, you can commit yourself to being a better parent and help your family avoid the worst issues that can arise during or after a divorce.