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What Should You Include in a High-Conflict Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan will lay out each parent’s rights and responsibilities when it comes to child custody. It is an essential part of any divorce. Parenting plans come in different shapes and sizes, but you should work with a lawyer to ensure you create a plan that works for you.

When parents are prone to conflict, they need a very detailed parenting plan which decides ahead of time as many issues as possible. If you and your ex have a dispute, then it’s helpful to pull out the parenting plan and see what you agreed to.

At Tad Nelson & Associates, we realize how stressful co-parenting can be, especially when a parent thrives on conflict. For many people, the years following a divorce are more stressful than the divorce itself. Below, our League City child custody lawyer identifies the most important building blocks of a high conflict parenting plan. Please reach out to our firm for more information.

Focus on Child Exchanges

The act of getting your child from one house to the other is a source of enormous conflict. This is the exchange. So many issues can arise. Your parenting plan should drill down and be as detailed as possible about:

  • Where the exchange takes place (school, a restaurant, one parent’s house, etc.)
  • The day and time of the exchange
  • Who will pay for gas or transportation
  • How much advance notice a parent must give if they can’t make the exchange
  • How to reschedule an exchange, if necessary
  • Who will pick up the child—i.e., is it ever acceptable for a boyfriend/girlfriend or grandparent to pick up or drop off the child? Or can only the other parent pick up or drop off?

High conflict parents often find it helpful to avoid each other. One attractive option is to use school as the exchange point. One parent will pick up the kids Friday afternoon at school for the weekend. Then the child is with them until Monday morning, when they drop her off at school. The other parent then picks her up after school on Monday. In this way, the parents never see each other. But this schedule might not work for you, so discuss exchanges with your lawyer.

Identify What Information Must Be Shared

Information is also a source of conflict. No parent wants to be kept out of the loop, especially if you don’t see your children for most of the year.

Drill down about what information to share:

  • Report cards
  • Disciplinary suspensions
  • Medical information
  • Whether your child is using birth control
  • Who your child is dating

A high-conflict parent will claim you are “hiding” information from them when it’s not the case. They just want to fight.

Allocate Expenses

You should have a child support order in place. Nonetheless, many arguments arise about who should pay for certain expenses:

  • After-school activities
  • School field trips
  • Sports equipment or clothing
  • Musical equipment

These expenses could be considerable. Some children travel as members of sports teams, playing in tournaments far away from home. You should decide ahead of time how you will divide these expenses if the child support order does not include information.

One risk is that you get saddled with hundreds of dollars. For example, your child might stay with you overnight before her school trip. In the morning, she asks for $100. You might want the other parent to cover this expense but they refuse. You can try to address situations like these in a parenting plan.

Overnight Schedule

A basic parenting plan should identify where a child will spend the night. However, with high conflict situations, it’s best to be detailed. For example, never assume you’ll get to see your child on their birthday. Write that into the parenting plan.

Also don’t assume your child will swing by on your own birthday or on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. You need to include specific language in the parenting plan. The same is true for birthdays involving siblings or half-siblings.

Conflict Resolution

Parents often cannot resolve conflicts themselves, and it’s impossible to pre-empt all disagreements ahead of time. Consequently, you should probably include a method of dispute resolution.

Some parents like mediation, where they meet with a neutral mediator to discuss a dispute. You might participate in mediation as part of your divorce. But mediation can be cumbersome and is voluntary, meaning it won’t solve the dispute. Another option is arbitration.

Need Help? Call Our Firm to Discuss Child Custody Issues

We have written many parenting plans which work. Give us a call if you are searching for a divorce or child custody lawyer.