When going through a divorce with children in Arizona, a key part of the process is developing a parenting plan. This plan must comply with Arizona law, it must work for you and your spouse, and it must address as many issues as possible to prevent unnecessary disagreements down the line.
Important Aspects of a Comprehensive Post-Divorce Parenting Plan
When most parents think about post-divorce parenting time, they think about their weekly schedule. Which days and nights will your children spend with you each week, and which days and nights will they spend with their other parent? But, while this is indeed one important aspect of a post-divorce parenting plan, there are several other important aspects as well. Here are five examples:
Typically, both parents will want the ability to go on vacation with their children in the years after their divorce. But, vacation plans will also typically conflict with divorce parents’ routine parenting time schedules. As a result, parents must specifically address vacation planning during the divorce process.
There are many options for vacation planning; and, when parents are willing to work together during the divorce process, they can develop a well-suited plan for their particular circumstances. For example, divorcing parents may agree that they will each take their children on a one-week vacation each summer, or maybe one parent will take the children on vacation during spring break. At the same time, the other will plan a summer vacation.
When it comes to vacation planning, there are some other considerations as well. For example, how much of a say will each parent have in the other’s vacation plans? Will there be any restrictions or conditions for out-of-state or international travel? Will the parent who isn’t on vacation be able to call for non-emergency purposes? These are just a few examples of the types of questions divorcing parents need to answer.
Divorcing parents must also decide how they will divide (or share) the holidays post-divorce. While sticking to the routine schedule is an option, this will often lead to one parent feels left out most of the time.
As a result, most divorcing parents will prefer to address the holidays in their parenting plans specifically. Here too, there are several possibilities. For example:
- Parents can designate holidays (i.e., one parent gets Memorial Day and the other parent gets Independence Day each year)
- Parents can alternate holidays (i.e., if one parent gets Memorial Day, the other parent gets Independence Day)
- Parents can alternate years (i.e., one parent will get Thanksgiving in 2021, and the other parent will get Thanksgiving in 2022)
- Parents can split holidays (i.e., the children will spend the first half of the day with one parent and the second half of the day with the other)
Whichever option divorcing parents choose, the key is to avoid ambiguity. When the holidays roll around, there shouldn’t be any question about which parent has parenting time. If either parent wishes to travel with their children during the holidays, then the travel-related considerations discussed above concerning vacations will need to be considered here as well.
Birthdays also require similar considerations. Oftentimes, parents’ preferences regarding birthdays will change as their children age—and as their children’s preferences change as well. For example, while both parents might want to celebrate birthdays in the earlier years of their children’s lives, this may become less of a priority during the teenage years (when their children will likely prefer to celebrate with their friends anyway).
Concerning birthdays and early birthdays, parents will often choose options similar to those discussed above for the holidays. But, again, there are no hard-and-fast rules, and parents can decide on any arrangement that complies with Arizona’s “best interests” standard.
Shifting gears slightly, let’s talk about activities. Extracurricular activities can be important for children’s growth and development, but they can also present challenges for divorced parents. For example, who is responsible for transportation? Who can attend games or recitals? Who decides in which extracurricular activities the children will and won’t participate? These are all questions that should be answered during the divorce process.
Aside from extracurricular activities, divorcing parents will also generally want to establish parameters regarding things like spending time with friends, curfews, driving, having (or not having) a cell phone, and how much time each day their children will spend looking at screens. But, of course, here too, what is necessary and appropriate will vary depending on each child’s age, among other factors.
While parents can make some of these decisions in advance (i.e., regarding curfews or at what age their children will be allowed to drive on their own), divorcing parents will often need to establish parameters for future discussions and decision-making. Therefore, when going through a divorce, it is important not to punt on issues entirely but rather to ensure that you have a framework for when important decisions need to be made.
Divorcing parents will also want to establish parameters for dealing with child-related emergencies post-divorce. Each parent’s decision-making authority should be clear, and it should also be clear when each parent has the right to be notified or present. Hopefully, this will never be an issue; but, if one of your children needs emergency medical treatment at any point after your divorce, it will be important to have a plan to focus your efforts and attention on doing what is best for your child.
Schedule a Free Divorce Consultation at Weingart Family Law in Phoenix, AZ
If you are contemplating a divorce and would like to know more about the considerations that go into developing a post-divorce parenting plan, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a free initial consultation with a Phoenix divorce lawyer at Weingart Family Law, please call 480-542-0099 or request an appointment online today.