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Back to school time and parenting plans after divorce

Another summer season is winding down in Mississippi, and a new school year is upon us. Newly divorced parents, however, may be struggling with how to create a parenting plan that meets their child's needs, both in and out of school. They need to decide which school the child will attend, where the child will live during the school week and on weekends and who will be responsible for the child's after school care and activities.

First of all, it is important for parents to take a step back and look at their own schedule and commitments objectively. Divorce is an emotional time, and it may be tempting to try to grab onto as much parenting time as possible out of both love and fear. But, it is important look at the situation practically to craft a realistic parenting plan that reflects each parent's actual availability.

A parenting plan should also meet the child's age and developmental needs. This includes not just how old the child is and what his or her personality is like, but also what extracurricular activities the child participates in, as well as what child care arrangements need to be addressed, including how far apart each parent lives from each other.

There are a number of child custody schedules that could be worked out. Perhaps, parents will alternate weeks having the child live with them. Or, the child will spend two days with one parent, the following two days with the other parent and then alternate weekends between each parent.

Finally, for any parenting plan to work effectively, parents must be able to put their negative feelings aside and communicate in a cordial, if not positive manner. Some parents find that email and text messages are better than a face-to-face conversation. Moreover, a phone call or text message allows for quick communication, should something come up. Parents should avoid badmouthing their ex, for the sake of the child who may feel caught in the middle.

Back-to-school time should be a time of excitement and new beginnings. It is important for all parents, divorced or not, to support their child during this time. Divorced parents may have more logistics to juggle, but a well-thought out parenting plan can address their needs and their child's needs throughout the year.

Source: Parents.com, "9 Rules to Make Joint Child Custody Work," accessed on Sept. 5, 2016

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