If you and your child’s other parent are ending your romantic attachment but want to remain actively involved parents, you’ll need to construct a parenting plan as part of your broader child custody arrangement. An effective parenting plan will allow you both to clarify how your co-parenting relationship will work in legally-enforceable ways.
Most of the time, New Jersey courts require that a parenting plan be formalized before a divorce or non-marital child custody case can be formalized and closed. If your child’s needs or your family’s circumstances evolve, you can modify the terms of your parenting plan by mutual agreement and submit the changes to the court for approval. But, crafting your parenting plan in thoughtful ways from the start should keep modification needs to a minimum.
Your child’s best interests and what is “doable”
It’s important that your parenting plan reflect your child’s best interests. Yet, it’s also important that the ways in which these interests are addressed are truly manageable for all involved. For example, it is likely in your child’s best interests to speak with both of their parents every day. Yet, a phone call may not always be workable with everyone’s schedules. Consider crafting a term that allows for a call or, on days when both co-parents agree in advance, a video message could be sent by both you/your co-parent and your child instead.
Aiming for a stable yet flexible relationship
When possible, keep expectations stable enough that your child benefits from a stable arrangement. Yet, also allow for flexibility when making that allowance is appropriate. Life is unpredictable. The more reasonable flexibility you can inject into your plan from the start, the less likely it will be that unnecessary tensions will arise between you and your co-parent and you and your child.
If you and your child’s other parent keep your child’s best interests and the idea of “stable yet flexible” terms in mind when crafting your parenting plan, it is far more likely to be both effective and manageable than it would be otherwise.