When you divorce with children, you will need to work together long-term with your children’s other parent. In the vast majority of cases, both parents will remain involved in the children’s lives for years or decades to come. Ideally, divorcing parents will be able to maintain or create parenting arrangements that provide the kids with as much positive interaction as possible.
Let’s assume you’re both actively involved in your children’s lives. This is very common, and Arizona’s parenting plan statute directs courts to maximize each parent’s parenting time, where possible.
In other words, it’s likely that you and your divorcing spouse will have approximately equal time with the kids and equal decision-making authority over them. You will need to interact with your ex in a positive way in the long term.
You’re both great parents; there’s no need to fight
Most parents are ultimately able to develop their own parenting plans through negotiation or mediation. This usually works out better than taking a custody battle to trial, although that is sometimes necessary.
If you and your ex are able to work out a parenting plan on your own, it should be in the children’s best interest. Ideally, it would support giving your kids two loving, actively involved parents and capitalize on each of your strengths.
Here are a few key considerations:
Can you commit to living within an easy commute of the other parent? This would allow for much greater flexibility and allow one parent to back the other up when outside commitments make it impossible to take care of the children.
Each home should be about as desirable to the kids as the other. You should consider that different home environments can leave children feeling like one parent’s house is more “home” than the other’s. Try to make sure the kids have all the necessities in each home and that each one is inviting in its own way.
Can you create complimentary custodial schedules? Can you back one another up when you’re unavailable? It may be possible to modify your work schedule or other commitments so that you seamlessly switch from one parent to the other without undue stress on the kids.
Can you budget together? Even though one parent might be paying child support, there will still be shared expenses. Can you reduce or redirect your spending to make it easier to maintain two separate residences on the same income as before?
Ultimately, a great parenting plan is about trying to make things work as well as possible for your children – not scoring points on your ex. Your ability to continue working together could be crucial to your children’s future.