Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Adjusting the Parenting Schedule for Unforeseen Events

If only life were steady and predictable. Then parenting schedules would never have to be altered to accommodate unexpected events. But, alas, life is full of twists and turns that nobody expects. During divorce or separation, we discover that all kinds of plans need to be modified, including parenting plans.

Having to change the parenting schedule from time to time is one of the few things you can count on when co-parenting after divorce. Unforeseen or special events will come up, such as a grandparent's funeral or a major celebration in the extended family. This is generally not a problem for divorced or separated parents who are able to cooperate with each other.

Even cooperative co-parents who generally get along well aren't necessarily always happy about making the requested changes. But they work together to accommodate these special requests because they know that they too might need to request a change from time to time.

When putting together your parenting plan, it is helpful to include a provision specifying how you will handle adjustments to the plan. Your plan might say something like:

We understand that there will be times when we want the children to participate in an event that does not fit into the parenting schedule set forth in this parenting plan. If either of us has a need or desire to alter the parenting schedule to allow the children to participate in special occasions that arise from time to time, we will provide notice of the request to the other parent at least 30 days prior to the change, if possible. Within 3 days of the written request, the other parent will notify the requesting parent of any specific conflict in the children's schedule that would make that change in the schedule detrimental to the children. If the parents are not able to resolve the scheduling conflict within 5 days of the other parent's written response, they agree to immediately schedule a mediation-arbitration session with __________. If the parents are not able to resolve the conflict through mediation at that session, ___________ will make a binding decision about the requested schedule change.

To balance the extra time with the requesting parent, the other parent will have parenting time with the children the next two weekends.

In the case of a death in the family, schedule change requests will be accepted automatically, and the other parent will have parenting time with the children the next two weekends.
It's not possible to think of all eventualities when preparing your parenting plan, but including a provision for handling occasional changes can lessen any conflict or negative impact on the children.

© 2008, Mary Wollard, J.D., Family Solutions Center,

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