May 1, 2007
Written by Staff at The Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution
DOCUMENT FOR LIFE: The Memorandum of Understanding
PART TWO: Custody – Today & Tomorrow
Being a parent is not an easy job under any circumstances. Yet when parents separate and divorce, the worries multiply. Now parents ponder every possible mishap, they read into every action and reaction of their children. The separation is typically viewed as the cause of problems that the child may even have exhibited before the parents lived apart. Now there appears a real cause to point the finger at and point they do.
Although mediation cannot erase your concerns or make you relax, clients often report that their collaborative attention to their children’s needs, their focus on helping their children today and tomorrow, and in particular on structuring a future in which they continue to remain parents together are critical elements in the family’s post-divorce adjustment and health.
In particular mediation offers you a way to plan for the now and the tomorrow by addressing present and future concerns. Let’s look at the areas to be covered in the creation of a parenting plan for your children:
A. Custodial Designation
While many couples have shared legal custody, agreeing to work together to make the major decisions that affect their children’s lives as a couple, even after divorce, physical custody refers to where the children live. Many couples specifically define which parent has physical custody (one or both), whereas others make a reference to the parenting schedule presented in their agreement.
B. Parenting Schedule
This section sets out the times when the children will be with each parent. Looking ahead, it often includes review and renegotiation dates, flexibility with nonscheduled times, and notification terms for changes in scheduled dates and/or times. Pick up and drop off times help to define the schedule and each parent’s responsibility.
Holidays, vacations, and special days are also included and once again times and manner of pick-ups and drop offs are included. Some parents set the schedule almost in stone—on a particular occasion the children are annually with one parent. Other parents alternate days or divide them in a manner that fits with existing family traditions and/or creates new traditions. Don’t forget special occasions like birthdays, graduations, and weddings.
Terms for travel with the children outside the state and country should be included.
Does the nontraveling parent need preapproval? Should there be provisions for the children to call the nontraveling parent? Are there designations that are subject to special approval? Should parents take signed permission notes from each other when traveling with the children?
D. Access To Information
How will each parent obtain information? Exchanged by the parents?
How will caretakers and institutions in charge of the children be made aware of each parent’s entitlement to information with respect to the children?
What about important documents relating to the children (e.g., birth certificates, passports, bank and investment accounts)?
E. Parental Cooperation
Who is responsible for taking children to scheduled activities?
Are parents welcome at children’s activities if not scheduled to be with the children at that time? Are they entitled to bring guests? What guests?
Responsibility for the following tasks:
– Clothing shopping
– Doctor appointments
How to handle gifts to the children from parents?
How do parents arrange attendance at school and other events, including teacher
How are special celebrations of the children financed? Planned? Who goes?
F. Change of Custodianship
In the event of the death of the custodial parent?
In the event of the death of both parents?
In the event of a change of living arrangements?
How to handle a parent’s request to relocate within the state? Outside of the state?
What factors need to be considered? What else needs to be changed?
H. Conflict Resolution
If parents are unable to reach agreement on child-related issues in the course of their coparenting, what kind of process can they put into place in order to resolve their differences without resorting to court?
The above questions just scratch the surface on the different considerations and issues to be discussed in the creation of a parenting plan. Mediation affords the parents a forum conducive to collaborative decision-making. The present and future well being of the children become the focus of the mediation with the main goal of ensuring that the children always have two caring and loving parents.
Please Call Our Office For Answers To Your Questions – 781.239.1600