If your relationship with your child’s other parent is transitioning from a romantic attachment to a non-romantic co-parenting arrangement, you’ll need to determine how your child custody order will be structured. Once that question is settled, you’ll be able to construct a parenting plan that will govern the ins and outs of your co-parenting relationship in legally-enforceable ways.
Child Custody and Parenting Time
As an experienced family lawyer – including those who practice at the Law Group of Iowa – can confirm, most co-parents find ways to reach mutually agreeable custody and parenting time terms without the need for judicial intervention. Of course, if your family situation is colored by a history of domestic violence, extreme narcissism, etc. reaching a mutually agreeable arrangement might not be possible. In these situations – and in situations wherein co-parents can’t overcome fundamental differences – a judge will be called upon to make determinations about custody and parenting time.
Regardless of how your custody order is ultimately structured, if you are both going to remain actively involved in your child’s life, you’ll need to craft a parenting plan that outlines how you will both manage your parenting time arrangements. These arrangements will need to reflect the best interests of your child before a judge will approve terms that are mutually agreed upon or rule in favor of a proposal presented in a contentious child custody case.
Setting Expectations in a Reasonably Flexible Way
To better ensure that your parenting plan terms are workable when “life happens,” it’s important to set reasonable expectations in ways that are flexible when flexibility is appropriate. That way, everyone can plan and your child can have a strong sense of stability and security but expectations aren’t so rigid that you and your co-parent are risking a return trip to court on a regular basis.
Parenting plans, just like child custody and parenting time orders, are legally-enforceable. Meaning, if you violate the terms of your plan – even unintentionally and in ways that are beyond your control – your co-parent could drag you back into court. It’s a far better idea for everyone involved – especially your child, who is not going to benefit from in-fighting – to avoid tensions when doing so is possible
For example, instead of insisting that your child will be with you every year from December 15-January 2, consider phrasing that parenting time term as “two full weeks at the end of December and beginning of January – including Christmas and New Year’s Eve – on dates to be mutually agreed upon by October 1 of that year.” That way, you’ll be able to make travel and celebration plans in advance and your child will know what to expect but there will be “wiggle room” to account for school exams, travel discounts, etc.
You may also want to consider some virtual visitation terms that will allow your child to effectively – and regularly – communicate with whichever parent they aren’t currently residing with at any given time. Whatever you do, keep your child’s best interests at the forefront of this process.