Steven E. Sufrin, Attorney at Law
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Co-parenting begins with a mutual plan

Despite that your marriage is ending, you and your spouse have made the mature and practical decision to cooperate in forming a parenting plan that will benefit both of you as well as your children. Difficult as it may be to divide the time with your children, you understand how important it is for their well-being to have as much time with both of you as possible.

Negotiating a plan may be the first and best opportunity for you and your parenting partner to work together outside of your marriage. It may set the tone for future cooperation and create a positive atmosphere for your children.

Scheduling

Your parenting schedule is more than just which days you will each have the children in your home, although that decision may form the backbone of your plan. Including the following in your scheduling plan may prevent conflicts and disputes in the months to come:

  • Pickup and drop off times
  • Locations for picking up and dropping off
  • Transportation between homes
  • Plans for alternating or sharing holidays, school breaks, birthdays and summers
  • Arrangements for traveling and vacations
  • Rules for schedule changes

You may also include times for your children to spend with grandparents and other family members, and stipulations about people who should not have access to your children. Your schedule can also establish preferred methods of communicating with the children while they are at each parent's house. Encouraging the children to call or video chat with your co-parent at bedtime, in the mornings or after school may provide a sense of security for the children, especially if they are upset about the divorce.

Decision making

Sharing parenting responsibilities while living in the same house may have been a challenge if you weren't getting along with your spouse, but after your divorce, it will be important to maintain consistency for the sake of the children. Your parenting plan can include agreements for making important decisions regarding discipline, education, religious upbringing and shared expenses. You and your spouse may have other responsibilities to discuss, and doing so without emotion or temper can be a huge step forward.

Finally, although an Arizona family court will probably make decisions regarding dividing the expenses for your children, you and your spouse can certainly come to agreements on your own and establish a written record for future reference. This may include which of you will cover medical bills, clothing, tuition and extracurricular expenses. Of course, any decisions you make that differ from the court order will not be legally binding, so discussing them with your attorney may help you avoid a misunderstanding.

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