You may find yourself with time on your hands while staying at home. This is an opportunity to catch up on the “to do’s” that still need tending after your child custody and parenting case has finished.
The relief of the end of a case usually leads to a new normal, followed by forgetting those items that still need tending. Now may be a good time to wrap up that outstanding to do list.
Tip 1: Make a Calendar
Review the parenting time schedule in your agreement or court order. Put the day-to-day, holiday, school break, and summer schedules on a calendar. Include deadlines for designating/choosing summer vacations. Then send it to the other parent.
This helps you identify & get ahead of any disconnects. Before becoming last minute crises. In addition, this helps you track & keep deadlines for choosing summer vacation time. Therefore, you are on time & avoid conflict over missed deadlines.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, some children find a calendar helpful to adjust to and follow a parenting time schedule. Once you and your co-parent are on the same page, consider creating a kid-friendly calendar for your children.
Tip 2: Keeping In Touch With Your Kids
Some parenting orders and agreements are very details about parent-child communications when your children are with their other parent. Some are not, leaving the “how” and “when” to parents to work out. Read your order or agreement. What does it say?
If nothing at all, or something but not how and when, try to work it out with your co-parent. If there is a stated schedule, then start building a routine with your children around it. Expectations matter – especially unmet expectations. Knowing & following through help avoid conflict and disappointment.
Tip 3: Supportive Services
Does your agreement or court order require follow up or supportive services? For example, therapy, testing, evaluations, or parenting coordination? If so, are there deadlines?
In the relief of the case being “over”, it is easy to forget about the services meant to support your family’s successful transition to your new parenting agreement or order. Parents and children can only benefit from these services by following through. Without parent follow up, services do not happen.
Tip 4: Future Disputes
Is there a process for resolving future disagreements or disputes in your order or agreement? Take a look. Look for things like notice (especially written notice of breach), mediation, parent coordination, or consultation with another professional.
During conflict, it can be difficult to remember that there may be a required resolution process. Moreover, that might actually help you and your co-parent work out the issue. In addition, that may be required before either of you can file in court.
Tip 5: Legal Custody & Decision Making
What does your agreement or court order define as decisions requiring involvement of both parents? What kind of involvement? Consultation? Information sharing? Participation? Discussion? Making decisions?
Beware of making decisions on your own, only to find out that the other parent too had a say but had not been given a chance. This runs the risk of the other parent putting the brakes on a decision. Or, unreimbursed expenses from that decision.
In addition, you may find that when there is impasse you are required to participate in a dispute resolution process (see Tip 4).
Tip 6: Notification
Review your court order or agreement for what events require advance notice to the other parent. What kind of notice? When? For what?
You may find that advance notice is needed about a move or change in residence, changes (to the schedule, in the children’s schools or medical providers), disputes with the other parent before filing in court, selecting summer vacation dates, rights of first refusal, and so forth.
Tip 7: Material Changes in Circumstance
No parenting agreement or custody order is written in stone, never to change. Material changes may occur after your court order or agreement making the existing parenting time schedule or legal custody decision making no longer possible, practical, or in your child(ren)’s best interests. Changes happen. If material, these could justify a modification of or changes to your parenting agreement or court order. (In that event, see Tip 4 about Future Disputes.)
In the immediate relief that often follows the end of negotiation, mediation, or litigation, it’s tempting to move on without looking back. Moving on also means wrapping up. Tending to this now will save you potential parenting headaches in future.
If questions about what follow up is needed, consult with an appropriate professional, whether an attorney, therapist, or other advisor…
Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law.