Family Mediation & Divorce Center
Effectively Updating Your Parenting Plan
Updated: May 7, 2021
Having a parenting plan in place will significantly improve your experience as a co-parent. Rather than winging every situation as it arises, a thorough and well-developed parenting plan spells out clearly how things should be handled, removing the grey areas and putting everyone on fair footing. But just like your relationship with your children will evolve over time, your parenting plan must do the same. It should be a living document that grows and breathes and adjusts as the needs of your children change. In a year as tumultuous as 2020 has been, many co-parents who thought they had rock solid parenting plans have seen just how necessary that flexibility and adjustment is. How do you know when it’s time to make changes to your plan? And how should you go about it? We have three simple steps for you to consider.
1. Know Your Limits
In some situations, you and co-parent may be able to make small tweaks to your parenting plan without any additional input from a third party. If you’ve established a pathway of clear communication and respect with one another, small issues shouldn’t require a complete rewrite of the plan. But if tensions are rising and you’re finding yourselves increasingly at odds over matters relating to your kids, it’s time to revisit things. Even the best of co-parenting relationships hit rocky periods. Don’t let stubbornness create a mountain out of a molehill. Recognize when you’re hitting a wall and be open to readdressing the plan in a more structured way. It’s not uncommon for this sort of thing to happen if one parent enters into a new relationship or remarries. The complexities of blending families can be a big trigger for revisiting your plan. Likewise, exceptional situations such as this year’s COVID-19 pandemic and all the resultant fallout (virtual schooling, working from home etc.) can destabilize even the most well established parenting plans.
2. Be Prepared
Before you go into the process of updating your parenting plan, make sure that you’re ready—both mentally and emotionally—to make the process successful and as smooth as possible. Prepare a checklist of items you want to address. Prioritize the things that are most important to you, but be ready to compromise where it makes sense. Understand that emotions will be heightened during this process, and commit to operating with empathy for your co-parent’s point of view. You did this before when you initially developed a plan; you can do it again! Being effective co-parents is all about centering the needs of your children over your own, so if you both go into the process prepared and with that top of mind, you’ll emerge victorious.
3. Find Help
You don’t necessarily have to rework your parenting plan with the same person who originally helped you develop it. But if they’re still in your life and you had a good experience with them, by all means reach out. If you’re not in contact with them anymore or would prefer to try someone new, you have quite a few options for people who can help. Whether it’s a co-parenting or divorce coach, a mediator, or a therapist, there are plenty of professionals well-versed in helping co-parents reach harmonious compromise on developing a parenting plan. If you or your co-parent struggle with being too permissive and it’s caused friction in the past, working with a practitioner who has a systemic approach can really help. They’ll assist you in reaching the root of the problem and creating guidelines that help you hold firm boundaries, which can really benefit your children. If you’re in need of some help formulating or updating your parenting plan, reach out and let us put you in touch with an experienced professional who can help you create guidelines that will serve the best interests of your whole family.