When families are going through divorce and separation, there are always going to be difficult conversations involving important parenting arrangements. There was a time when most of these were decided by the courts but thankfully there are ow more positive ways to resolve contentious issues involving children. The Parenting Plan is one of them.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is written by parents who are separating, or have already split up. It encourages them to work together to think about how they will deal with everyday parenting roles and duties when they are no longer living under the same roof.
Discussions are likely to cover living arrangements, schooling and holidays but parents are encouraged to think about lots of different scenarios that they may not have anticipated such as what happens when children are off school because of sickness or training days.
Why is it important?
As well as opening up a dialogue between parents and encouraging them to make decisions based on their children’s needs, a Parenting Plan gives everyone a degree of certainty about how life will be lived in the future. The Plan is also an important reference point to go back to as time moves on and situations change.
How do we write one?
The Plan itself can be downloaded at www.cafcass.gov.uk or completed online. Parents can discuss it face to face, over the phone or even via email. Other members of the family, such as grandparents, can participate in the discussions if they are likely to be involved regularly in the care of your children.
It can be helpful to complete the Plan with the support of a trained family mediator, who can help you talk through any issues that you are unable to resolve between yourselves. Some mediators, like Sally Clark here at Clark Family Law, are also trained and experienced in child inclusive mediation. This can be a powerful way to give children a voice in decision making without putting them under pressure or making them feel like they are taking sides.
From a practical point of view, the Parenting Plan provides a list of questions aimed at prompting thought and discussion. Will you meet regularly to discuss the children after you separate? How will new partners be introduced into the children’s lives? This second point is one of several questions in the Plan that can help to avoid family rifts and arguments in the future.
What is not covered by a Parenting Plan
The Parenting Plan does not cover discussions about money and assets. Those issues will need to be agreed separately, although they can still form the basis of your meetings with a family mediator.
The Parenting Plan is designed to set out your ongoing commitment as parents and to put the best interests of your children at the forefront of your decision making in any matters that involve them.
As trained family mediators and experts in child inclusive mediation Clark Family Law can support you with your Parenting Plan. Call us on 01423 637 272.