3 Common Parenting Plan Disputes and How They Can Be Resolved
There are going to be times when you and your co-parent disagree about the parenting plan - even if you both created it together. Perhaps they are being difficult because they’re still struggling with the breakdown of the relationship. Or, maybe you really want to parent the children on your birthday but it is the other parent’s time according to your parenting schedule.
Whatever the reason for the dispute, it’s important to both acknowledge your emotions and do what’s best for the children, even if it means compromising and not being with them during part of an emotionally significant time for you personally.
Below is an overview of 3 common parenting plan tensions and what you can do to mitigate the impact they might have on the children and your long term co-parenting relationship.
1. You both want to spend time with the children for the same holiday/celebration
This issue is especially common during the first year or two after the end of the relationship. Both of you are distressed at the prospect of spending Christmas, Hanukkah, birthdays, or other special occasions without the children. Even if the parenting plan says that the children are with their other parent on any of those days, you or your co-parent want to reconsider.
In this situation, compromise and acceptance are key. If your co-parent really wants the children with him on his birthday, you could offer to switch for a holiday or occasion that is equally meaningful for you. If he has them at a time that’s special for both of you, such as Christmas Day, make peace with the arrangement and spend that day with other friends or family. You can enjoy an extra-festive celebration when you see them again.
2. You have different parenting styles
Different parenting philosophies can be another common source of conflict. You might place special emphasis on a uniquely healthy diet, 9pm bedtime, or a “no iPad until homework is finished and the dishes are washed” policy. Your co-parent might be content to order in food regularly, lets the kids stay up until 11pm on a school night, and inconsistently confirms that homework has been finished for the following day. This can be incredibly frustrating.
If you and your co-parent get along well enough to have a face-to-face discussion, at an appropriate opportunity raise your concerns respectfully. Don’t simply cast judgment on their parenting style - instead, focus on the desired results and mutual child-centered interests. You could say something like, “I could really use your help ensuring that Paul and Emily finish their homework each night.”
Any stylistic parenting differences should be addressed through mutual discussion and, if necessary, negotiation. However, if you have reason to believe that your co-parent’s parenting decisions are becoming detrimental to the children (for example, she leaves them alone for a few hours every time to meet friends at the bar), it might be time to seek out mediation or co-parenting counseling.
3. Your co-parent is always late picking up the children
Is your co-parent chronically late? Even if this merely inadvertent rather than purposeful, being on time is important. Your own frustration aside, if the other parent rarely picks them up on time, this could affect the children's feelings about how they are being prioritized; these feelings could in turn impact the parent-child relationship down the road.
Once again, consider respectfully approaching your co-parent with your concerns, paying particular attention to the timing and tone of your conversation. It could very well be that they are not fully aware just how their tardiness is being perceived by the children and may pay more attention to the clock the next time. On the other hand, if they repeatedly seem dismissive of any attempts to engage in dialogue, or accuse you of being too controlling, it might again be a situation better suited to mediation or co-parenting counseling.
Contact a Connecticut Family Law Attorney
Whenever you are facing a parenting plan dilemma, take time to consider the most positive outcome in the context of your children's’ experience of the plan and their unique needs. In the wake of a divorce or separation, it can be easy for you and their other parent to be framing conflict from the perspective of your own needs. If, however, you both routinely commit to step back and remember the importance of putting the children first, navigating and even improving your parenting plan can be more easily achieved.
At Holt Law, we believe that all families are unique, and will work with you to develop a parenting plan that meets the needs of everyone involved. We have years of experience with child custody, parenting plans and parental communication issues, and will help guide you to resolve them in a manner which keeps the focus on the needs of your children, ensuring that they feel loved, supported and safe after divorce or separation. To schedule a consultation, call 203-872-7218.