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7 Things No One Tells You to Include in Your Parenting Plan

what i wish i put in my parenting plan

Going through a divorce or separation is hard enough as it is. But for couples with children, one of the biggest headaches can be agreeing on a parenting plan that covers all the bases. Things like custody or timesharing schedules, child support, and all the major legal boxes to check.

But here’s the reality – those basic parenting plans often miss critical details that can lead to constant bickering and even potential court battles down the road. Nobody warns you about those landmines!

As family law attorneys here in Florida, we see it all the time. Couples make the same oversights, get stuck in a cycle of “You said this…” “No, you agreed to that…” And suddenly, you’re back in court spending thousands more in legal fees because the parenting plan was incomplete. It’s an easily avoidable nightmare.

So here are the top 7 things most people don’t think to include in their parenting plans…until it’s too late.

1. Contingencies for Life’s Biggest Curveballs

Your typical parenting agreement is drafted based on your situation at that exact moment. But what happens when life throws you a massive curveball like:

  • Having to relocate for a new job
  • Getting remarried and dealing with stepparents/stepkids
  • Developing a serious illness or disability
  • Battling addiction/substance abuse issues

These changes can completely disrupt even the most air-tight parenting plan. That’s why it’s crucial to map out contingencies upfront for major life changes like these while you’re both thinking clearly.

In Florida, you can include directives on everything from relocation parameters to how new partners get integrated with the kids to alternate decision-makers in case a parent gets incapacitated.

2. Scheduling Holidays and Vacations to the Hour

One of the biggest hot-button issues for divorced co-parents is scheduling holidays, school breaks, and summer vacations. And simply saying “we’ll alternate” or “split time equally” only leads to constant squabbles.

You need to get granular and specific. Your parenting plan should map out start/end times for every single holiday, school break, and vacation period. Down to the hour. That way, there’s no debate — the schedule is the schedule. If you agree to a change, that’s great! But if you don’t, the specifics are detailed in your plan.

3. Tiebreakers for Major Parenting Decisions

At some point, you’re going to clash with your ex over major decisions impacting your kids. We’re talking stuff like education choices, religious upbringing, medical treatments, the whole nine yards. Which school do they attend? What faith do they follow? You can see why tensions flare up.

Having a decision-making framework baked into the parenting plan is critical. Will one of you get final say on certain issues if you disagree? Will you bring in a neutral third-party to break ties? Get it in writing because you don’t want these heavy decisions derailing your co-parenting.

4. Handling All The Financial Nitty-Gritty

Child support is the big one when it comes to finances in a parenting plan. But there’s so much more ground to cover. How are healthcare, extracurriculars, education expenses, and other child-related costs going to be allocated? What happens if someone’s income situation changes drastically down the road?

Get granular here, too. Map out percentage contributions, reimbursement procedures, provisions for future modifications if needed – all of it. Leaving financial gray areas is just begging for endless disagreements over who owes what.

5. Boundaries With New Partners and Stepparents

It’s uncomfortable, but let’s be real – many divorced couples move on to new romantic relationships that involve their kids eventually meeting stepparents. That whole process needs to be addressed proactively in the parenting plan.

Things like providing notice before introductions, whether new partners can stay overnight when kids are present, reinforcing that big decisions still go through the legal parents first – this stuff prevents major flare-ups and power struggles.

6. Agreeing on Communication Protocols

Even the most detailed parenting plan won’t stop every dispute between co-parents. That’s why you need to get on the same page with communication guidelines and conflict resolution processes baked right in.

Lay out specifics like using dedicated email accounts or agreed call windows. Prohibit using kids as messengers. And give yourselves a path for third-party mediation or co-parenting counseling when tensions rise. Having these processes provides accountability.

7. Updating As Kids (and Needs) Evolve

Here’s one area most parents overlook – little kids eventually become not-so-little kids with minds of their own. As they mature, their custodial wants and needs will likely start evolving based on activities, social circles, etc.

Good parenting plans allow for periodic review processes so kids can advocate for themselves in an age-appropriate way when the time comes. It also lets you adjust schedules and arrangements to align with your updated realities over time. Children change, so your plan has to as well.

When Modifications Are Needed

Things change, situations evolve, and circumstances shift. The good news is that under Florida law, you have avenues to request parenting plan modifications if a substantial change in your realities warrants an update – like relocating, incomes shifting, developing special needs, you name it.

But these cases aren’t a cakewalk. You need skilled legal representation to properly demonstrate why modifications serve your children’s best interests based on your new circumstances. Having professionals in your corner makes a world of difference.

Get Ahead of Co-Parenting Conflicts with a Comprehensive Plan

At the end of the day, a truly comprehensive, thoughtfully constructed parenting plan benefits you and your ex. But more importantly, it provides stability and consistency for your kids during an already turbulent time.

That’s why our family law team at Vasquez de Lara Law Group always stresses addressing potential pitfalls upfront rather than clashing over them later. We want your plan to flex with your realities as life goes on.

So if you’re staring down the barrel of a divorce, or need to revisit an existing parenting plan that’s no longer serving your family’s needs, we’re here to advocate for you. With expertise born from years of experience, we’ll craft a co-parenting roadmap that prioritizes your children above all else.

Give our office a call or schedule a free case evaluation, and let’s start getting ahead of issues before they ever emerge. Your kids’ well-being is simply too important to leave to chance.

Author Bio

Vanessa Vasquez de Lara is the founder and owner of Vasquez de Lara Law Group, a Miami family law firm. With over 20 years of experience in family law, she has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including divorces, child support, child custody, alimony, and other family law cases.

Vanessa received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2002 and is a member of the Florida Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named to the 2015 Super Lawyers Rising Stars and the 2016-2023 Super Lawyers list.

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