Sometimes the divorce process can get the better of parents. It’s easy to lose focus, especially when you think your ex is a schmuck. It’s also easy to fall into a bit of a shame spiral, where you get yourself all twisted up thinking you’re failing your kids, and the next thing you know, there’s no parenting plan and some stranger in a black robe is making pretty big decisions about your children.

The better option in almost all custody cases is to create the parenting plan yourself, and ask your Knoxville child custody lawyer to help you when you hit a rough patch. This way, all the control remains in your hands, but you don’t end up missing anything that could come back to bite you later.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a few things you should probably know. This will take some of the guesswork out of the process, so you don’t get frustrated or anxious. Just remember that anything you plan is temporary until your divorce is final. Then, the parenting plan becomes part of the final order, which means you need to stick to it like white on rice.

But first, a quick review of what the law requires for parenting plans

Parenting plans should, according to state law:

  • Establish the responsibility and authority of each parent
  • Minimize parental conflict
  • Address how conflicts will be resolved
  • Determine which one or both parents have authority about the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing
  • Determine where the child resides each day and provide that that residential parent shall make the daily decisions for the child while the child resides with that parent
  • Determine what transportation methods will be used, other than driving, if a parent doesn’t have a valid license
  • Reflect the ability of each parent to supervise and spend time with that child and provide a nurturing relationship with the child.

Three things Knoxville co-parents should know going in

Okay, so – now that we’ve got all the legal mumbo-jumbo out of the way, here are 3 things to keep in mind when you’re crafting a plan:

  1. Your parenting plan draft? It’s basically a wish list: what you want for your kids, and how you think those goals should happen. Start with the basics of your child’s needs: roof, food, clothes, health, school, and worship – not necessarily in that order – are good headings for a checklist.
    • If your child has any special needs, due to a disability or for other reasons, you may need to adjust your wish list.
    • If your kids are older than 12, you might want to ask them what they want, too.
  2. You’re going to have to deal with your ex if you share custody. If you and your ex are in a good spot, you can create your wish lists together, and then see what overlaps. Everything that’s on both lists stays, and then the dance begins. If just the mention of your ex is enough to make you see red, then it might be better to create your list separately, and then work with a mediator to find a good compromise.
  3. If you and your ex are fighting about everything, the judge is going to decide. That’s all there is to it: either you two figure it out, or the judge does.

Getting creative with your parenting plan

You can find sample parenting plans all over the place online, but your family is YOUR family. What works for one set of parents may not work for you and your ex, and that’s okay. As long as you’re both spending time parenting your children, you can be as creative as you want when it comes to how you do that. Here are some things that might work for you:

  • A nesting arrangement where the parents switch their homes instead of having the child move from home to home
  • Different plans for different children, especially if there are large age differences
  • If you have to sell the house, making sure you and your ex live in the same school district
  • Incorporating midweek overnight stays in addition to weekend overnights
  • A right of first refusal – if Parent A has to work or reschedule for some reason, Parent B can request that time with the children, as opposed to Parent A hiring a babysitter, or asking Parent A’s parents to watch the kids

Parenting plans don’t have to be “boring” or generic; they can fit the lifestyle of you and your co-parent however you wish. They do, however, have to involve compromise. If it feels like it’s all too much to handle, we can help. Call LaFevor & Slaughter to schedule a consultation with an experienced Knoxville child custody lawyer: (865) 637-6258 or completing our contact form.