Decorative image follow your parenting plan
Decorative image follow your parenting plan

Should you follow your parenting plan to the “T”? The short answer is, “yes”. Following your court order as written, especially if you are co-parenting with someone who thinks they are above the rules can be a game changer.

Getting used to your new parenting plan can take some time and effort. It will help you establish strong boundaries for yourself and your children and help you recover from trauma when you follow your parenting plan.

Decorative image of a mom and two children

Follow Your Parenting Plan

You have your high-conflict divorce parenting plan ready to go, now what? Follow your parenting plan. That sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just follow the plan you agreed to during mediation or was established by the family court.

It may sound simple until you start looking through a multipage legal document and freeze with the fear of not following it correctly and making a parenting plan violation.

Okay, I’m here today to help walk you through this new experience so you can get started with your new life on a secure footing.

decorative image of a mom with two children

Boundary Setting After Domestic Violence

If you are co-parenting with a former abuser it is super important to have strong boundaries. Following your parenting plan as written can help to keep communication and disagreements to a minimum. This will help calm the situation so you have a greater chance at peaceful co-parenting.

When your answer to any requested changes is that you wish to follow the plan you both agreed to your co-parent will quickly learn that trying to start drama with you for supply will not work. They have to learn that you are no longer in their life to meet their needs in this way.

Following the plan as written is one way to set predictable expectations and strong boundaries for yourself. When you are healing from trauma knowing what to expect is one thing that will help you feel safe. Feeling safe is very important to your recovery.

Your New Custody Agreement

You have your new custody agreement in hand and are ready to start your new life post-divorce. Now what?

Your first step is to review the custody order and become familiar with all the information it contains. It is your responsibility to know what is in the plan so you can follow it. Following the plan as written can keep disagreements with your child’s other parent to a minimum.

It is convenient to have more than one copy on hand. Most plans ask that you submit copies to your child’s doctors and counselor. When you register your child in school the school will ask for a copy to keep in their records. The school needs to know who has physical custody to keep your children safe.

It’s good to make a note of the percentage of medical costs you need to pay, mark your calendar with your parenting time, and plan for the year’s summer time and holidays.

The plan usually covers who can claim the child on yearly taxes, religious upbringing, schooling, and decision-making.

decorative image of two people looking at a plan.

A Predictable Visitation Schedule

To help make visitations with the other parent easier you can mark a family calendar with different colors so your child knows when they will be where. They will quickly get the hang of the new schedule and learn what to expect from each parent.

If your child takes a bus to school with different drop-offs for each home you may have to be creative to help them remember where to get off the bus. You can talk to your bus driver about the best way to handle the situation. If your child has a planner for school you can mark the days for mom and dad on their planner as an extra reminder of which stop to take each day.

There are many creative ways to remind a child where they will be each night. You could have them wear one bracelet for mom’s day and another for dad’s time. You can use notes, a reminder on their phone or electronic device, etc.

After a few months, you and your child will navigate your new custody arrangement easily.

Learning to Follow the Parenting Agreement

The first year you follow your parenting plan will be a learning process for you as you navigate all of the holidays, birthdays, and summer vacations for the first time.

You may find yourself referencing the agreement many times throughout the early days. Not only do you need to follow the guidelines set out by the family court, you also have to communicate with your co-parent about any decisions you need to make for the children.

Be sure to consult your co-parent on any important decisions you need to make about your child’s medical care, schooling, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. Over-communication is better than under-communication especially if you think this person may take legal action against you in the future. You want to protect yourself and your parenting time by following the permanent parenting plan so there is no possibility of being held in contempt of court.

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Your Child’s Best Interests

Less drama is better for children. Following the written word closes the door to some disagreements.

Minimizing the possibility of arguments at custody exchanges and during communication helps you build a strong foundation not only for your post-separation healing but also for the healing of your children.

It is harmful for your children to see one parent treat the other parent abusively. The more you can protect your children from seeing abuse the better for them. Also, when you are under a lot of stress from your co-parent’s behavior your children will sense your distress. They can become stressed and act up or struggle to regulate their emotions.

One strong, healing parent gives children security.

Noncompliant Parent

When your co-parent is noncompliant you must document what they are doing via written communication. Using email to discuss how the other parent is violating the agreement will help you establish a record of their behavior that is admissible in court.

Discussing medical treatments and school decisions via email will also help you if you need to take legal action later. The other parent will most likely realize that denying needed medical treatment in writing will not be a good look for them. Sometimes, you will have to go through a few rounds of requesting permission before they agree. Sometimes they won’t agree and you may need to petition your local family court to get a resolution so you can care properly for your children.

decorative image of a group of people looking at a plan

Dispute Resolution

Your parenting plan should have guidelines to follow when you cannot reach a decision with your co-parent. Knowing how the process works and the requirements for major changes or a new parenting time schedule can set your mind at ease if your co-parent is threatening you with legal action.

There may come a time when you have to go back to court with your co-parent or seek legal advice if they refuse medical care for the children, refuse to honor your visitation rights, or are in contempt of the agreement. Sometimes, a losing court battle is what it takes for them to realize working things out with a co-parent is better than an unwanted outcome in family court.

If your co-parent continues to violate your parenting agreement it might be time to start the consultation process with family law attorneys. After domestic violence and narcissistic abuse going to court every few years may be part of your new life.

You may have to keep an attorney fund ready to go at any time. Having money set aside to defend yourself may give you the strength and confidence you need to advocate for yourself and your children.

You deserve to live in freedom and peace.

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