Going through a divorce can be difficult and heart wrenching for many reasons – especially if children are involved. Having children can make a divorce more complicated because parents always want their children to grow up in the best situation possible. While a divorce can be difficult on everyone involved, there are ways to make the process go smoothly and to ensure that any children involved are considered every step of the way.

One of the most important ways to ensure that children are taken care of properly during and after a divorce is to come to a consensus as to child custody and to agree on a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a child custody plan that outlines both parents’ responsibilities and schedules for being with the children. It is negotiated by the parents and may be included in the separation agreement or an order of court. An experienced divorce attorney can guide you through the process of creating a parenting plan that is best suited for you, your ex, and most importantly, your children. When creating a parenting plan, below are five topics to keep in mind:

  • Parenting Schedules
    In some instances, if safety is not a question with either parent, it may be preferred that children spend a good amount of time with each of their parents so they can create a close relationship with them both. Due to this, we recommend keeping children’s needs and wants in mind when creating this schedule. Ensure the schedule is detailed, outlines interruptions for special events such as holidays or birthdays, and includes how to maintain and share that schedule with the other parent.

  • Child-related Expenses
    Discuss child-related expenses with a divorce attorney so a plan is in place and the parenting plan can reflect these expenses and the parents’ expectations. For example, will expenses be split 50/50, or will some expenses require a different allocation? Ensure to keep medical, education, and miscellaneous expenses such as sports in mind when covering this topic.

  • Important Decisions
    As part of the parenting plan, parents should consider how the important decision-making issues will be dealt with for the children. These major decisions include education, religion, health, and more, and are often referred to as legal custody matters. Legal custody can be shared by parents or one parent can have sole legal custody of the children. A parenting plan must address whether legal custody will be shared by the parents. If you are concerned that you will not be able to agree on these decisions with your ex, we recommend consulting with an experienced divorce attorney.

  • Form of Communication 
    Some divorced parents have a hard time communicating with each other in a civil manner. With that in mind, we recommend agreeing on a form of communication that works best for both parents. Some parents in this situation may decide that communicating via email or text is easier, or maybe talking on the phone is more effective. There are court-approved means of communications that log and record the communications between the parents, including when emails are read and reviewed, as well as providing a calendar to record the children’s schedules. This may be an effective tool for many parents. Whatever form of communication is chosen, ensure that the conversation is peaceful and helps to create a comfortable environment for the children involved.

  • Parenting Plan Timing 
    It is important to make a parenting plan as soon as possible. The routine and stability that a parenting plan provides can help to make the changes in the children’s lives a bit easier and can help them to get comfortable with the new circumstances. It can also reduce stress and anxiety for the parents.

RELATED: Read about how to successfully co-parent.

Making sure children are considered and taken care of through the divorce process is one of the most important things parents can do during and after a divorce. We hope these items to consider can give you a starting point so that you can create a customized, beneficial parenting plan for you and your family.

For information about what our experienced attorneys at Wilder Mahood McKinley & Oglesby can do to help you in your divorce, contact us online or call our office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 412-261-4040.

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