Creating an effective parenting plan is one of the best things you can do to streamline your child's transition to post-divorce life. A divorce might be traumatic for your child, but it does not need to cause lasting issues. A well-thought-out parenting plan can limit mental health issues and a range of other negative consequences for children dealing with divorce.
Courts prefer both parents to partake in a child's life and, as such, accommodate joint custody. How exactly do you establish an effective parenting plan in Colorado? Follow these steps, and you might be surprised at how easy this process can be.
Consider the Best Interests of the Child
According to family courts in Colorado, a parenting plan must serve the child's best interests. Therefore, one of your first steps when establishing a parenting plan is to consider the factors associated with a child's best interests:
- The child's preference
- The relationship between children and siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.
- Any past instances of domestic violence
- The child's connection to their home, school, and the wider community
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved
- Whether you can encourage a loving relationship between your child and your ex
- The distance between the two homes
- The ability of each parent to place the child's needs above their own
If any aspect of your parenting plan seems to go against these factors, it may be rejected by the family courts in Colorado.
The child's preference should be respected, but only if they have sufficient mental maturity to understand what is going on. It is obviously in the child's best interests to spend as little time as possible with a parent who has abused or neglected them in the past.
The distance between the two family homes may be of particular importance. First of all, parents should consider any connections that a child may have to one particular neighborhood. For example, they might be close friends with other children in the neighborhood. They might regularly visit the local community center for various programs. They might be involved in various athletic clubs nearby. It may also be difficult to attend a local school if they are constantly moving between homes.
Generally speaking, parents may wish to maintain homes that are close to one another. This can help ensure more equal and fair parenting time while reducing stress for the children. When is your home “too far” from your ex's residence? This is left up to interpretation, but you may struggle to spend time with your child if they have to travel for many hours each week between homes. If a child has more connection to one particular community, you may wish to rent or buy a home within that community for the best results. Of course, this does not apply if you have maintained ownership of the family home.
Which Parenting Plan is Best for a Child's Mental Health?
It is difficult to determine the best parenting plan for a child's mental health because each family situation is different. Previously, researchers assumed that an uncontested divorce was better for a child's mental health. As you may know, an uncontested divorce does not involve a trial, and parents work out their differences behind closed doors. The result is a custody agreement instead of a court-ordered parenting plan. While trials can be time-consuming and stressful, there is surprisingly little evidence to suggest that an uncontested divorce leads to better mental health outcomes for children.
With all that said, there are a few options that are popular among parents in Colorado today:
- Every Other Weekend: If one parent wants to shoulder most of the child-raising responsibilities, an “every other weekend” plan may be preferable. This might also be beneficial if one parent has serious work obligations. As the name suggests, one parent has custody for the whole weekend, every other weekend.
- Modified Every Other Weekend: The “every other weekend” plan may be modified in a number of ways. One option is to have an extended weekend, perhaps from Friday to Monday instead of Saturday to Sunday. Parents may also organize midweek visits to ensure regular face-to-face time.
Split Midweek: If parents want to spend equal time with their children, a split midweek plan may be effective. Under this plan, parents alternate custody every two days – and then every five days. In other words, this is a “2/2/5/5” alternating schedule. Midweek exchanges at school limit potential conflicts.
- Every Other Week: Perhaps the simplest parenting plan is the “every other week” option. As the name suggests, this plan involves one week on and one week off.
Some believe that younger children may benefit more from regular exchanges. However, others point out that frequent exchanges can disrupt a child's normal routine and schedule – perhaps leading to greater mental health challenges. At the end of the day, parents must decide what is best for their children based on their own unique circumstances.
Consider Major Decisions That Will Affect the Child's Life
Remember, physical custody is only one aspect of the overall parenting plan. Responsible parents must also consider legal custody, as this affects major child-raising decisions. These decisions may include subjects such as:
An effective parenting plan lays out pre-determined decision-making processes to limit potential disputes on these subjects.
Get in Touch With a Qualified Custody Attorney in Colorado Today
One of the best ways to establish an effective parenting plan is to work alongside a qualified custody attorney in Northern Colorado. Choose Casey James Alexander to discuss your parenting plan in more detail. Whether you and your ex agree on how to handle this process or not, we can guide you toward a positive outcome for the whole family. Remember, a problematic parenting plan that does not serve a child's best interests may be rejected by family courts in Colorado. Book your consultation today to get started on a reliable, effective parenting plan that will stand the test of time.