Developing any kind of parenting plan during a high-conflict separation or divorce is no small feat. Those parents who choose to put their children first amid this type of traumatic experience have incredible strength and empathy.
Though their heart may be in the right place, parents often choose to construct a co-parenting plan in general terms, rather than attempt to discuss (and fight over) finer details. When issues inevitably arise, a poorly-made plan can lead to anger, incurred court costs, attorney’s fees, and unnecessary pain for both you and your children.
To help you avoid these costly and emotionally draining pitfalls, here are three factors to consider while creating your co-parenting plan. Whether you tackle it with your co-parent or on your own, keeping these points in mind while planning will allow you to act in the best interest of everyone’s well being.
1. Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting
Before you can begin tackling your parenting plan’s details, it’s helpful to identify whether you’ll be navigating a co-parenting or parallel parenting situation.
In a co-parenting scenario, both parents adopt a mutually agreed upon parenting style to minimize disruption to the children’s schedules and expectations in each home. On the other hand, a parallel parenting approach entails both parties parenting by their own rules with minimum communication and no disruption from either parent.
Co-parenting is the ideal approach for the children in most cases; having clearly-defined expectations across both households will establish structure in their lives, as well as minimize the possibility of favouritism or alienation.
However, effective co-parenting is only possible when parents can openly and respectfully communicate with each other. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially in high-conflict separations or divorce. That said, it is possible (and common) to parallel parent effectively.
No matter your situation, it is crucial to identify whether you’ll be co-parenting or parallel parenting before you begin developing your plan. These approaches differ significantly, and will affect your strategy and planning through every stage.
2. Setting Clear Expectations and Consequences
The main purpose of a parenting plan is to establish crystal-clear expectations that each parent understands completely. In many ways, a parenting plan is a guide by which you and the other parent will live your lives; it is absolutely critical that both parties understand what is expected of them. Ideally, a comprehensive co-parenting plan will clearly define each parent’s role, allowing them to present a unified front for their children and cultivate an environment where they can thrive.
While a parenting plan can promote a healthy environment, it can also protect your parent-child relationship from your ex’s high-conflict personality. Far too often, these parents will disregard the expectations laid out in a parenting plan, ignoring the guidelines and acting selfishly. Typically, these personality types won’t change unless their behavior leads to a negative result for them. Clauses and consequences written directly into your plan can help prevent a high-conflict personality from interfering with your relationship with your children.
3. Eliminating Loopholes
As much as we would like to believe everyone enters into parenting agreements in good faith, we’ve seen selfish and narcissistic parents exploit ambiguous plans far too often. Especially in high-conflict situations, a malicious co-parent will look for any potential loophole or opening to assert themselves and damage your parent-child relationship.
The best way to prevent this type of behavior is to eliminate any possible room for it. A well-constructed co-parenting plan should answer as many “what ifs” as possible before they occur, removing any opportunity for a malicious parent to come between you and your child.
The Ultimate Co-Parenting Plan with Pathways Family Coaching
It should give parents peace-of-mind and work to minimize negative emotions, particularly in the challenging circumstance of a high-conflict separation or divorce. Most importantly, a thoughtful, complete plan will empower you to create a loving, nurturing environment where your child can grow and flourish in their new family structure.
Pathways Family Coaching’s Ultimate Co-Parenting Plan is a complete template to map out your co-parenting structure with your ex-partner. Available on its own or as part of Pathways Through Conflict, the Ultimate Co-Parenting Plan gives you the tools to build a co-parenting agreement that suits your family’s specific needs. The plan you develop can be used to:
- establish a co-parenting plan without the need for legal intervention
- negotiate a co-parenting agreement through mediation
- obtain a court-ordered parenting agreement
The Ultimate Co-Parenting Plan’s versatility comes from its comprehensiveness. Unlike many generic, vague co-parenting plans available today, the Ultimate Co-Parenting Plan considers every possible scenario down to the most minute detail. Best of all, it’s simple yes/no structure allows parents to easily develop their co-parenting plan without missing anything along the way.
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Pathways Family Coaching understands firsthand that divorce and separation are hard for everyone. However, even the most high-conflict situations can be successfully managed through a comprehensive plan to protect family bonds.
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