While going through a divorce, child custody can be tough for parents, especially if you’re in the dark about Nebraska child custody laws.
In our Must-Have Information on Child Custody series, we’ll take some of the mystery out of the law and give you information you need about Nebraska custody laws.
In Part I, we walked through the legal concept of best interest of the child. In this article, we discuss five popular pointers to help you come up with a parenting plan (AKA a child custody and visitation agreement) that will help your child prosper.
1. It’s Not About You
This one is SO important, it should count for more than one pointer. It is critical. The shared parenting plan is not about you. It is about your child. If you remember nothing else, remember this.
It’s true that the parenting plan will affect your life until your child becomes a legal adult or unless/until it is modified by the court, and you have to be able to live with it – but the goal of the parenting plan is not to fulfill your needs; it is to fulfill your child’s needs. It must foster relationships between your child and BOTH parents.
This should be the focus during every phase of child custody mediation or negotiating your parenting plan – not your feelings about the other parent or what he or she did to you or to contribute to the demise of your relationship.
2. Your Child Is a Person, Not Property
Don’t dismiss this point as silly. Failing to remain actively conscious of the fact that your child is a person with needs and feelings is a common trap parents fall into during parenting plan negotiations.
We often hear parents talking about “my time,” or expressing the belief that they are entitled to parenting time that they want because they pay child support (which is not true). Both of these mindsets turn the focus onto the parent’s entitlement, not the child’s feelings or life. The parenting plan that you develop with the other parent with the help of a mediator or your attorney is about your child’s relationship with you and the other parent. It’s about the child’s life, not about entitlements to your child.
Changing your mindset and reminding yourself throughout the parenting plan process that it is about supporting your child as a person as he or she grows, not about your ownership of or entitlement to him or her, will help you reach your goals for your child.
3. Know When To Compromise With Custody
For a mediation or negotiation to be successful, there has to be give and take. Parenting plan mediation is no different.
We often tell our clients that the best child custody and visitation agreement is one where both parties gave a little more than they wanted in some aspects and got a little more than they wanted in others. Those are the agreements that last and are livable.
If you are happy as a pig in a poke post-parenting plan process, but the other parent has their knickers in a knot, the other parent isn’t likely to want to follow that plan for very long. Their lack of buy-in to the plan will probably manifest in a lack of cooperation and a combative attitude — and is one of the most common reasons to modify child custody and/or the parenting plan.
Giving up a little to make the other side happy — so long as it’s good for your child — can help you save yourself a headache in the long run.
4. Strong Parenting Plans Make for Strong Co-Parenting After Divorce
A good, strong fence helps keep the peace between neighbors because its very presence creates and enforces a boundary. That’s what a parenting plan does too — it creates a sort of parenting fence.
Because the parenting plan is words on paper, rather than wood and nails, you must make sure those words are strong, just like wood. That means they must be clear. Everyone has to know and understand what they mean and know what will happen and when. If there isn’t clarity, there will be chaos.
In the case of a fence, the chaos is neighbors, their pets or children encroaching on one another’s property. In the case of a parenting plan, it’s late night phone calls to clarify plans, missed pickups or drop offs, last minute problems with holiday plans, and myriad other pains in the neck.
To avoid chaos, build a good parenting fence. Don’t agree to a parenting plan unless it is clear to you and you are sure it is clear to the other party.
5. Don’t Go It Alone
With trained, certified mediators and attorneys who have focused for years on family law and child custody, Hightower Reff Law can help you through the child custody and parenting plan process.
Call our office at 402-932-9550, or contact us online and make an appointment to come visit with us about your case during an initial consultation. Don’t go it alone.
Next Time …
Check out Part III of our Must-Have Information on Child Custody series, where we explore parental unfitness and what it can mean in a custody case.
This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.