On its face, the Washington Parenting Plan is a simple, straightforward document that specifies where the children will reside, how decisions are made, and what to do when there are disputes between parents.
But…a parenting plan can be so much more! Powerful parenting plans include provisions that establish a baseline for long-term, peaceful co-parenting, in which the children’s needs are met and the parents can effectively manage their responsibilities without conflict.
Last month in this blog we reviewed parenting time, a primary component of any parenting plan. While it is essential to concisely determine where the children will be at any given time, the parenting time schedule doesn’t deal with many of the points of potential conflict between parents over issues beyond the residential schedule.
For example, let’s say that in the parenting plan Mom gets a two-week block of vacation in the summer with the children. She decides they are old enough to finally take that awesome trip to Mexico with her, and she excitedly lets Dad know about their plans. Dad has been reading way too many articles online about violence in Mexico, and says “No way, you are not taking my kids there.”
Mom explains they are going to a very safe, all-inclusive resort and promises to be with the kids 24/7. She nicely reminds him it is her summer vacation time, and the parenting plan says she gets to make the decision about where to go with the kids. Dad tells her too bad – he has the kids’ passports and no way is he giving them to her.
Luckily, Mom’s legal technician included a provision in their parenting plan about control of passports! Mom gently explains to Dad that he MUST relinquish the kids’ passports, because there is a specific provision about control of passports in the parenting plan order that says he must cooperate on international travel (within reason, of course). Problem solved…Mom books the tickets and they all have a fantastic time.
And here’s another example of a powerful provision for children’s property; Dad generally has the kids during the week, and Mom has them on weekends, except for specific vacations and holidays. The middle-schooler is at Dad’s house and receives a new tablet computer so that she may work on her schoolwork. Dad makes it clear that the tablet belongs to the girl, and to her alone.
She goes to Mom’s house and brings the tablet with her, then forgets it when she transitions back to Dad’s house. Dad gives Mom a friendly call and asks her to bring the tablet over to their daughter at Dad’s house. Mom thinks the daughter is too young to have her own tablet (even though she is 13) and says not only will she not bring the tablet to Dad’s house, she is confiscating the tablet from the daughter.
Fortunately, Dad’s parenting plan includes a provision regarding property of the children, which spells out that any property of the children belongs to them, and if a child leaves property at one parent’s house, then the parent with current residential time can bring the child to the other parent’s house and pick up the child’s property. Once again, problem solved…Dad takes daughter to Mom’s house, she gets her tablet back, does all her homework, and gets an A on the assignment.
There are many other provisions that could be included in a parenting plan, such as:
Gun storage and safety
Deviations from the parenting plan
Alcohol/drug use around children
Tattoos and piercings
Attendance at children’s events
Access to school and health records
The key is to incorporate just those elements that apply to the family, and not to throw everything in there just because it can be done. A powerful parenting plan helps the parents avoid future conflict by addressing their particular needs, often by considering past sources of conflict.
A parent considering establishing a parenting plan will do well to reflect on ways to anticipate where disputes may arise, and work to write a parenting plan that includes solid provisions to avoid future conflict as much as possible.