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Designing a parenting plan to help your family thrive

Despite your divorce, you and your future former spouse remain parents forever. As such, you may want to make sure that you do everything in your power to help your family thrive in the future.

The first step for many New Jersey families is creating a good parenting plan. What you include in it could create a foundation for the future you envision for your children and your family.

What makes a good co-parenting relationship?

Research shows that a good co-parenting relationship includes the following aspects:

  • Create a detailed parenting schedule. If everyone knows what is going to happen, no one is surprised, and surprise and uncertainty can create problems.
  • Agree to be flexible when needed, if possible. Life happens, and each of you needs to know that the other can adjust if the circumstances warrant it.
  • If possible, discuss any needed changes to the parenting schedule as far in advance as possible.
  • Give each other the "right of first refusal" when it comes to babysitting. The other parent may jump at the chance to spend additional time with the children.
  • Establish some boundaries between the two of you. Each of you is entitled to go on with your lives now that you are no longer together.
  • Do not attempt to manipulate each other or the children.
  • If you generally agree on things, your children will think you get along -- even if it is for their sakes. Include a method to resolve any conflicts that arise between you in your plan.
  • Agree to attend extracurricular and school activities together, or at least agree to spend time in the same room without creating any tension.

Finally, as you work to create your parenting plan, keep in mind that each of you should have a substantial role in your children's lives.

Protecting your rights

Including the above factors in your parenting plan is a good start, but you also need to ensure that your rights remain protected. While you may be willing to compromise and cooperate, you needn't do so at the expense of your rights as a parent. Even if you believe the other parent wouldn't take advantage of your generosity or willingness to do what is necessary for your children, there is no reason to jeopardize your relationship with your children.

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