A parenting plan is an agreement between parents that outlines the custody of their children and will cover practical arrangements such as who has the children on which days. A parenting plan also covers the decision-making process for the children’s education, health care, religious training, and other life decisions.
As part of the divorce process, you and your ex-spouse will have created a parenting plan that spelled out your new routine for holiday and vacation time. However, as children grow, their own preferences for how they spend their time will change, so it’s a good idea to conduct an annual review of your parenting plan and make any necessary adjustments.
Here are some considerations for each stage of childhood:
Infants. Predictability and frequency help babies thrive so visits of a couple of hours multiple days a week will help your baby develop the necessary attachment to a non-custodial parent. Feeding schedules need to be taken into account as it is important to adhere to these in the early months of life. It is optimal for the visits to occur at the same place and there will likely be few or no overnight visits.
Toddlers. Children of this age are experiencing important developmental milestones and can benefit from occasionally having overnight visits with a non-custodial parent. However, time spent away from the custodial home should not be too lengthy or it can prove stressful for a toddler.
Elementary school children. Once a child has entered elementary school, they become more interested in forming relationships with other children their age. At this stage, every other weekend visits can more easily be integrated into their routine to maintain a strong bond with the non-custodial parent. Your parenting plan will need to be flexible enough to accommodate the times when your child will want to stay overnight with a friend or has extracurricular activities that may impact the normal schedule.
Teenagers. At this age, your child will be much more interested in spending their free time with friends, doing extracurricular activities or even working. Let their interests and their need for time with parents be your guide in restructuring your parenting plan when your child becomes a teen. You and your ex will also need to be on the same page when it comes to rules for dating, driving, curfews, etc.
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