Pennsylvania couples who are divorcing will likely need to create a parenting plan if they have young children. A detailed parenting plan can have a number of advantages. The time that parents spend in creating one gives them the opportunity to anticipate potential future conflicts and create a framework for resolution.
A parenting plan also establishes for children and others, including teachers and future partners, that the parents have prioritized their children. Later, it can serve as a reference point if parents have a conflict about what was agreed upon earlier. This can be particularly useful if they are in the midst of a disagreement in which they are not thinking clearly.
A parenting plan has several components. Physical custody deals with the actual time the child spends with both parents. This may include arrangements for holidays and vacations. Legal custody is usually shared and is concerned with religion, education and similar issues. Additional provisions can deal with a variety of other situations.
Another reason that creating an effective parenting plan is so important is that it may lay the groundwork for years of effective co-parenting. Parents who think their relationship will finally end when their children turn 18 should keep in mind that there may be grandchildren, and this might mean further negotiation even if legalities are no longer in play.
One way to approach a parenting plan might be negotiating with the assistance of attorneys without going to court. If there is a great deal of conflict, mediation might be a possibility. Some studies have shown that mediation can turn a contentious divorce into a low-conflict one, and it can also set the stage for a healthier situation for children. It may be possible to alter a parenting plan in the event of changed circumstances as well.