5 Reasons to Mediate a Parenting Plan
What is a Parenting Plan?
When couples separate, there are two parts to obtaining a separation agreement: one part is the financial plan and the other is the parenting plan. If you have children together or are responsible for raising children, you will need a parenting plan. The parenting plan consists of a statement about custody. In other words, who will be doing the major decision making…one parent or both? This is in relation to education, religion, health, recreational activities and professionals involved with the children. One person can make the final decision for some or all of these things, or you discuss the issues and decide together. The problem occurs if you reach an impasse. So where there is joint custody, most mediation agreements for parenting plans have a dispute resolution clause where you agree to attend mediation should you reach an impasse on any issue. Further, Parenting Plans include the scheduling of the children. In other words, which parent shall care for the children, when and how? The plan typically includes information on health care and many other items most parents don’t think to include.
5 Reasons to Mediate a Parenting Plan
1. Reduce or Eliminate Conflict: This is the most important reason. If you have children, on-going parental conflict is the most damaging aspect of separation for children and can cause psychological, emotional and physical impairment both in the short and long term. Children need extra support during this phase when they may regress in behavior, develop anxiety, depression and poor coping methods such as drugs and alcohol. It is sad and unnecessary when they lose themselves in their parents’ divorce. Parents need to remember that the children need more support than ever during separation. The children need their parents to separate amicably. By mediating a parenting plan, you are more likely to settle issues quickly, amicably and move on with civility for the sake of your children. Mediation can help you focus on your children’s needs and improve your co-parenting relationship. It reduces anxiety for you and your children and decreases the chance of conflict damaging the children.
2. To determine who will make major decisions for the children: While most major decisions have been made by the time a child is five years old (e.g. what school system he/she will attend) there may be other decisions that must be made that are important and could have a large impact on the child (e.g. playing rep hockey, attending a religious school, or seeing a counsellor). Who will make these decisions and how?
3. To determine where the children will be living, with whom and for what periods of time: Children need a schedule that is consistent, suitable and provides stability.
4. If there is safety issues involved for you or the children, it is important that a parenting plan address these issues as children need to feel safe and secure. They need to know that each parent will move on respectfully from each other, and be able to take care of themselves and the children, without the worry that someone will get hurt. Mediation is not always appropriate to use where there are safety concerns but often can be used to address these issues and build in protections.
5. Enforcement. If you have a written binding agreement with legal advice prior to signing, and one parent is not following it, you have something to go to Court with to inform the Judge of your concerns. A binding agreement regarding the children is enforceable and the parent can be held accountable.
Added Bonus: Why Mediate a Parenting Plan?
√ Keeps the conflict down.
√ Cost Effective and Efficient.
√ Win/Win Approach
√ Keeps the Parenting Manageable and Predictable
√ Reduces Anxiety by having a plan to resolve issues as they come up in the future
Most parents who have gone through the mediation process report that everything became much more manageable and amicable once they had something in writing they could follow. The parents themselves felt less anxious over the “battle” for the children or potential misunderstandings. This is very important given your co-parenting relationship never ends when children are involved. Doesn’t it make sense to mediate a parenting plan as soon as possible?
Debra Rodrigues Hon. BA, BSW, RSW, Acc. FM, EAP Med., CP Med., CRP
Ontario Child Protection Mediation Roster and Accredited Family Mediator
Counselling, Mediation, Training, Facilitation
Mississauga, Georgetown, Brampton, Caledon, Milton, Oakville, Orangeville, Bolton, Etobicoke
1 (866) 506-PCCS (7227)
Fax: 905 567-8858