Going through a child custody case can be tough for parents, especially if you’re in the dark about Nebraska child custody law.
In this series, Must Have Information on Child Custody, we’ll take some of the mystery out of the law and give you information you need about child custody in Nebraska.
This week, we discuss five popular pointers to help you come up with a parenting plan 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 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 mediating 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. It’s Not Always Going to go Your Way – and That’s Good
For a mediation or negotiation to be successful, there has to be give and take. The Parenting Plan process is no different.
We often tell our clients that the best 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 that 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 lack of cooperation, combative attitude, and eventually a Petition to Modify 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 Fences Make Good Neighbors – Strong Parenting Plans Make Good Parents
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 other myriad 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
As a trained, certified mediator, and an attorney who has focused for years on family law and child custody, I can help you through the child custody and Parenting Plan process.
Call my office at 402-932-9550, or contact us online and make an appointment to come visit with me about your case during an initial consultation. Don’t go it alone.
Watch for Part III of our child custody series when 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.