On many levels, divorce is a transition. One day you are living with someone you once thought you’d spend the rest of your life with, and the next day that person is living elsewhere.
One or both of you were working to pay the bills and save for the future, but that has changed. Each of you is now financially responsible for your own residence, doing it on your own income, with whatever support you are receiving from your ex. If you are the one paying, your income is now reduced to help your ex.
Perhaps the most difficult transition for some is realizing that your family routine has changed. Specifically, you probably don’t see your children every day, because they are living in two separate households.
Regardless of how you divided responsibility for the care of your children while you were married, divorce requires some big adjustments.
The Mediated Parenting Plan
In mediation I begin with these acknowledgements: You, as parents, have your past parenting experience to help guide you in planning for how you will co-parent your children after divorce. Also, while not able to sustain a marriage, many of you will recognize that you have done a good job at parenting and are raising your children to be responsible and successful adults.
When I am helping parents to create a parenting plan for their future in two households, I begin with these acknowledgments:
There is emotional turmoil in divorce, and even reluctance to accept that your children will most likely not live with you 100 percent of the time. Still, a thoughtful parenting plan, developed in mediation, is an important first step in creating a healthy transition for your entire family.
Envisioning Your Children as Adults
In the early part of mediation, I ask you two simple questions to help keep you focused on your children’s future amidst the changes you are experiencing:
This introduction to a visioning process for children can lay a foundation for constructive co-parenting, where you can determine how decisions are made, how time will be allotted between parents, and the co-parenting guidelines for communicating and setting expectations.
More Things to Consider
Here are a few other issues to be mindful of, as you think about how to manage the changes in your parenting process:
Unlike the court system, where a judge has to referee and decide for parents how they will move forward, mediation offers the chance for you to set your own rules and expectations for co-parenting. When you do this well—and I assure you that many do—your children will carry with them the memory of parents who navigated a difficult transition with love and concern for their well-being.