Divorce can be one of the most challenging experiences one goes through.
It can take a physical and emotional toll on one's well-being. When children are involved, it can add additional stress, even in the best situations. Most don’t realize that when you are in the middle of traumatic experiences, such as divorce, it’s easy to lose your sense of self, your grounding, and the rational mind that typically guides you in the right direction. Regardless, you still have to make decisions that may impact you and your children for the rest of your lives. Therefore, it’s essential to surround yourself with a good network of people that can help to keep you grounded even in the darkest times. Friends, family, medical professionals, and even financial professionals should be in your daily life, especially when decisions need to be made.
Planning for children amidst a divorce can be a complicated task. Here are some things I learned having recently gone through a divorce myself:
PARENTING PLANS TAKE TIME:
Custody arrangements are just one small part of planning for children post-divorce. Often it’s relatively simple to figure out time with each parent. What gets more challenging is the more in-depth planning that parenting plans involve. What days of the week will they be with mom or dad? How will you divide holidays? What if there are school closures or sicknesses? When and how will kids be introduced to significant others? What sort of routines do you want to create in each environment that allows consistency at both homes? What process will you have to determine ongoing decisions for their health and well-being? These are just a few things to mention, but parenting plans can be highly detailed and often can create room for lots of discussion on how you collectively want to raise your children in different homes.
FINANCIAL ARRANGEMENTS CAN BE FLEXIBLE:
Sometimes divorce calls for child support payments from one spouse to the other. Traditionally speaking, the goal with child support is to keep your children’s standard of living the same in both homes. Child support is one way to structure financial arrangements to care financially for children.
Joint Bank Account
Another method used is for both parents to hold a joint bank account funded by each parent monthly to cover the cost of designated expenses. This arrangement can be in place of traditional child support. Parents meet yearly to design a budget for all the shared children’s expenses. It’s then determined which parent will contribute what percentage of those expenses on an ongoing basis. So in a traditional situation, one parent may have a higher income than the other parent, thus creating the potential need for child support. Instead of making child support payments directly to the other parent, they can opt to add their contribution to this joint account with designated expenses. This arrangement works well for parents who are amicable and can meet regularly to discuss expenses.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY:
Communicating well with the other parent will become even more critical as you begin designing new lives. What can be planned for today will likely change. Kids may want to participate in their parenting arrangements. Behaviors may warrant different needs. Communicating effectively with the other parent will be beneficial to your children. Some apps can help, like My Family Wizard.
Even in the best of situations, children require a lot of hands-on attention over time. Having an awareness of your options while going through your divorce will be important. Thinking about your needs after your divorce will be critical. If you find conflict, there are mediators specializing in children and parenting plans that can help make decisions.
Maintaining a transparent relationship with your co-parent will be important throughout your divorce process. You may find that the communication post-divorce is far better than the communication during your marriage since there is a need for so much structure around the decisions that directly impact your children.