Dear Dr. Jann: My daughter’s father and I are newly divorced and we are trying to design an equally shared Parenting Plan for her. She goes to preschool in the mornings. We have no idea where to start. Do you have any suggestions? 

Dr. Jann: Both the courts and the psychological community support “ongoing and constant contact” with both parents. Knowing this, there are a couple of standard parenting plans to consider. The things to consider are:

  1. Was there a primary caregiver or did both parents share in the child’s upbringing prior to the breakup? If one parent was the primary caregiver, automatically expecting a child to immediately adjust to an equally shared parenting plan is asking a lot of her.  She is used to her room and neighborhood and possibly pre-school and to upset what she is used to right after a break-up is not in her best interest.  In those cases, a step plan that slowly works into overnights with the parent who was not the primary caregiver would be recommended. If the parents shared parenting responsibilities prior to their break-up, then an equal custody parenting plan would be appropriate.
  1. Parents’ Work schedules

Any parenting plan takes the parents’ work schedules into consideration.  A child starts school around 8 am. If a parent works the graveyard shift where he or she is not home at night or he or she must leave for work earlier than 8am, then overnights during the week may be impractical.

  1. Distance between parents’ homes

If parents live too far away from each other, then again, overnights during the week may be impractical.

  1. Distance from home to school

If at all possible, parents should try to live in the same school district so they can pick up and deliver their child from school and the child is not in the car for hours at a time before or after school.

The goal is to to design something that doesn’t take your child away for either parent for great stretches of time—and work on your ability to problem solve with your child’s other parent so that the transitions from house to house are as stress-free as possible.

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