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Parenting plans are orders by the divorce court dealing with the raising of children of divorcing parents. These attempts at directing parenting activity range from directing people how they will share the raising of their children to how they will actually raise their children. They vary in complexity from a single line to 20 pages or more.
However, most court ordered parenting plans don’t work, and are not enforceable.
The reason they don’t work is that there is no possible way to anticipate everything that will happen on the rocky road of parenting. Life happens: parents’ work, schedules change, kids get sick, and an infinite number of other variables interfere with compliance to a parenting plan.
The parenting plans are not enforceable for numerous reasons. Courts cannot force a person to become a good parent. They can’t send a sheriff’s officer out every time a parent brings a kid home late. Courts can’t mandate respect, empathy, or simple good manners, and all of these things have to be applied to one degree or another in order to successfully share parenting.
Shared parenting fails because of two general concepts:
- One or both of the parents may not have been able to complete the grieving process. That is, they have not reached the acceptance stage of the grief related to their divorce. Most commonly they are stuck in the anger stage of the grieving process. Angry parents tend to put their needs ahead of the needs of their children. Angry parents express their unhappiness by snarling at the shared parenting.
- Parents often have problems changing roles from married person to single parent. The confusion the parent feels telegraphs into frustration, and the frustration gets expressed in the shared parenting as anger and non-compliance.
Whatever the cause of the anger, it is usually the main problem behind failed shared parenting. The best way to solve the anger associated with the shared parenting is to separate the children from the marriage and its associated anger.
A parenting plan is essentially nothing more than a tentative schedule of parenting time that is subject to immediate change. That is, while it may work as a fall back position when things go wrong, it can’t foresee and deal with everything that will happen in the parenting of your children. Only responsible, loving parents can do that.
Parents who are able to get over their anger or separate their anger at their ex-spouse from their feelings for their children can usually share parenting without destroying their children. This is true in spite of how well or poorly a parenting plan is written. However, plans that are inherently unreasonable, or obviously not in the best interests of the children, do not work. For example, child psychologists say that a plan that provides for a three month old child spending one week with dad and one week with mom is a bad idea. Taking a very young child away from his or her mother for an extended period of time just does not work.
Unfortunately, the problems with a shared parenting plan often are not obvious. Some things may be helped by seeing a child development specialist.