Parenting Plans

Is Work Or A Divorce Keeping You From Your Child?

320covers_page_1 I have posted previously on software and other tools to help parents and children of dvorce keep up with schedules and improve communication. This is a similar product which deserves a look:

For parents burdened by a divorce or a heavy workload, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay in touch with their children and each other. Visitation rights might decree that a parent only gets to see a child every other weekend, or perhaps the parent returns home from the office so late each night that their kids are already asleep. Additionally, children themselves are becoming busier and busier – extra academic studies after school, practice with the sports team – which further reduces the contact between parent and child. Whatever the reasons, a communication chasm is appearing between many parents and their children.

Community advocate and business owner Sheila Butler found that – like the parents in many of the other 40 million other ‘broken’ families across America – daily communication with her spouse about their children became next to impossible following her divorce two years ago.

"There were times when communication with my ex was difficult at best," recalls Sheila. "The question I kept asking myself was ‘How are we both ever going to keep up with what’s going on in our kids’ lives?’ but there was no solution available."

With necessity so often being the mother of invention, this mother of two set out to find her own solution, and in so doing developed the ‘Kids in Motion Planner’ (www.kidsinmotionplanner.com) to help her – and the millions like her – stay in touch with their current or ex-spouses concerning the kids.

Sheila offers parents the following tips:

1. Keep an ongoing involvement in your children’s lives.

2. Try and have a window of information into your kids’ everyday schedules and developments.

3. Keep an open line of communication, not just between the child and parent, but also the two parents themselves.

4. Give your kids an added ‘security blanket’ by letting them see that Mom and Dad are cooperating and interested in their development.

5. Enhance the safety nets – parents must stay in contact regarding important changes in their child’s life; such as a change in medication.

6. Give children a sense of purpose. Knowing that there are expectations on their parents as well as themselves gives kids purpose and an increased feeling of success when objectives were reached.

Since developing the ‘Kids in Motion Planner’ (www.kidsinmotionplanner.com) Sheila has become even closer with her 9 year old daughter, and keeps up to date better than ever before with her 20 year old son, who is constantly traveling with the military.

"From my own experience and from the feedback I’ve received from others, the ‘Kids in Motion Planner’ has proven to be a highly successful tool for families," she says, "and I mean the whole family – to our knowledge this is the first time anyone has involved the child in the issue of divorce and shared custody in a positive manner."

Although being a divorced or overworked parent is never easy for a family, a little extra communication between parents and their children, and with some simple organizational tools, all families can enjoy closer, more loving, and healthy relationships, no matter what life throws at them.

SOURCE: NewsBlaze and KidsInMotionPlanner.com

A YouTube video on the product, as featured on Atlanta & Company appears below:

Related Posts:

Shared Parenting Custody Calendar Software

Think outside the box for parent-child communications

Virtual Visitation: Webcams and Weekly Visits

Collaborative Law in Georgia: Child Specialists, Coaches and the Development of the Parenting Plan

Around the country and indeed the world the Collaborative Divorce process embraces many different  approaches.  In some areas of the country an attorney alone comprises the “team.”  In many others, the prevailing model calls for a full team: two attorneys, two coaches, one financial neutral and one child specialist.  In most of Georgia the goal is to utilize such a “full team.”  But one  area of creative difference between and among Georgia collaborative professionals has to do with the respective roles of the child specialist and the coaches in the preparation of the parenting plan.

The model that the authors subscribe to assigns unique roles to the child specialist and the coaches.  Specifically, the child specialist evaluates the children’s functioning and needs in the context of the pending divorce.  In addition, the child specialist assists the children in developing coping strategies as well as making sure their voices are heard where decisions affecting them are made.  Once the child specialist has completed the initial evaluations, and often after a follow-up or two, he or she meets with the parents and the coaches to discuss the findings and to articulate the child’s special needs, desires, emotional status, etc.  This allows the parents to hear what the children need and want  while simultaneously allowing the coaches to hear the same information. This process fosters a much fuller understanding of that information.  It is then for the coaches to reinforce what the child specialist has said since they have heard exactly the same information as the clients. 

In this model the coaches work with the clients to develop the parenting plan taking into consideration the feedback from the child specialist.  We think it is essential that the coaches develop the parenting plan, since they have a detailed understanding of the family system and the minutia of the clients’ lives. Having the child specialist craft the parenting plan might appear appropriate from the children’s points of view but may not be capable of implementation unless it also works with the parents’ work and travel schedules, availability for transportation, etc.  The coaches, on the other hand are perfectly situated to incorporate the feedback from the child specialist, together with all of the other information they have about the lifestyles of the two parents.  It is the coaches’ responsibility to find the proper fit between the best interests of the children and those of the parents.

This model also allows the child specialist to continue working with the children on their adjustment to the divorce without getting caught up in the parents’ struggles.  The child specialist stays focused on the special needs of those members of the divorcing family who might otherwise not be able to make themselves heard. 

The coaches can maintain their focus on the details of the parenting plan and work with each of the parents on the issues, conflicts and struggles that often emerge when couples talk about final decision making, conflict resolution, schedules, and areas of parental responsibility, etc.  Working directly with the parents, coaches are in the best position to exert positive influences on them to come up with a detailed, well-crafted parenting plan – now legally required under this year’s HB 369 as of January 1, 2008– that will be realistic and work in the real world.

After all, the wording of a parenting plan may look great, but if it can’t be implemented over the long haul it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

SOURCE: Howard Drutman, Ph.D. & Marsha Schechtman, LCSW of Atlanta North Psychotherapy Center

Collaborative Law in Georgia: Child Specialists, Coaches and the Development of the Parenting Plan

I am very pleased to present the following article, written by my colleagues in the Collaborative Law Institute of Georgia,  Howard Drutman, Ph.D. & Marsha Schechtman, LCSW of Atlanta North Psychotherapy Center, who have graciously permitted me to reprint their article here:Dr_drutman_web_pic_07 Marsha_schechtman__lcsw_bady

Around the country and indeed the world the Collaborative Divorce process embraces many different  approaches.  In some areas of the country an attorney alone comprises the “team.”  In many others, the prevailing model calls for a full team: two attorneys, two coaches, one financial neutral and one child specialist.  In most of Georgia the goal is to utilize such a “full team.”  But one  area of creative difference between and among Georgia collaborative professionals has to do with the respective roles of the child specialist and the coaches in the preparation of the parenting plan.

The model that the authors subscribe to assigns unique roles to the child specialist and the coaches.  Specifically, the child specialist evaluates the children’s functioning and needs in the context of the pending divorce.  In addition, the child specialist assists the children in developing coping strategies as well as making sure their voices are heard where decisions affecting them are made.  Once the child specialist has completed the initial evaluations, and often after a follow-up or two, he or she meets with the parents and the coaches to discuss the findings and to articulate the child’s special needs, desires, emotional status, etc.  This allows the parents to hear what the children need and want  while simultaneously allowing the coaches to hear the same information. This process fosters a much fuller understanding of that information.  It is then for the coaches to reinforce what the child specialist has said since they have heard exactly the same information as the clients. 

In this model the coaches work with the clients to develop the parenting plan taking into consideration the feedback from the child specialist.  We think it is essential that the coaches develop the parenting plan, since they have a detailed understanding of the family system and the minutia of the clients’ lives. Having the child specialist craft the parenting plan might appear appropriate from the children’s points of view but may not be capable of implementation unless it also works with the parents’ work and travel schedules, availability for transportation, etc.  The coaches, on the other hand are perfectly situated to incorporate the feedback from the child specialist, together with all of the other information they have about the lifestyles of the two parents.  It is the coaches’ responsibility to find the proper fit between the best interests of the children and those of the parents.

This model also allows the child specialist to continue working with the children on their adjustment to the divorce without getting caught up in the parents’ struggles.  The child specialist stays focused on the special needs of those members of the divorcing family who might otherwise not be able to make themselves heard. 

The coaches can maintain their focus on the details of the parenting plan and work with each of the parents on the issues, conflicts and struggles that often emerge when couples talk about final decision making, conflict resolution, schedules, and areas of parental responsibility, etc.  Working directly with the parents, coaches are in the best position to exert positive influences on them to come up with a detailed, well-crafted parenting plan – now legally required under this year’s HB 369 as of January 1, 2008– that will be realistic and work in the real world.

After all, the wording of a parenting plan may look great, but if it can’t be implemented over the long haul it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

SOURCE: Howard Drutman, Ph.D. & Marsha Schechtman, LCSW of Atlanta North Psychotherapy Center

2008 Brings New Child Custody Laws

2008 The New Year will bring several new laws to Georgia including more changes to the state’s rules for divorcing parents. The new law streamlines the process for determining child custody because the bill’s sponsors said our old laws often trapped kids in traumatic legal battles.

Representative Judy Manning (R) chairs the House Children and Youth Committee. She and other sponsors of the new law said they’d heard from parents of kids stuck in custody fights that never seemed to end.

So, the 2007 legislature passed some changes.

One requires each parent in a custody contest to file a parenting plan with the court. The hope is the judge could then get both parents to sit down and agree on a final plan; so mom and dad won’t fight to pile up hours with the kids, just to win custody from a judge who doesn’t know their individual lives.

“The idea that you can count the hours that you had with your child was really too tight for the parents. It got to be too personal, and too much of a squabble,” Manning said.

Other parts of the new law:

  • Judges can award attorney’s fees. That’s supposed to keep wealthier parents from using constant challenges as a weapon.
  • Parents can further streamline the process by agreeing to use binding arbitration instead of the courts.
  • Kids 14 and over can no longer be the sole deciders of which parent’s house they’ll call home.

    “Sometimes it became part of a bidding war, where one parent would promise a car or a computer or a cell phone or whatever,” Manning said.

    Two years ago, there was a huge fight over how to divvy up money between so-called first and second families. But, this law – to shorten the pain for all kids – passed both the House and Senate with just one no vote.

    The new law also requires courts to keep track of how many custody fights they handle. Up to now, lawmakers and judges haven’t been able to get good statistics on how many kids are affected by custody battles.

  • The video of the broadcast of this report is here.

    SOURCE: WXIA (11Alive.com) by Denis O’Hayer

    Related Posts:

    Reposting of Links to Articles on HB 369


    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Public Policy Statement

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Appeals

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Parenting Plans

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Arbitration in Custody Cases

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: No Presumptions in Favor of Either Parent or Form of Custody

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Best Interest Standard

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Additional Custody Factors for Family Violence Cases

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Fourteen Year Old Election

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Custodial Preferences of 11 to 14 Year Old Children

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Custody Evaluators and Guardians ad Litem

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Requirements for Relocation and Chages of Addresses of Parents and Children

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Attorney’s Fees

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Home Studies by DFCS

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Custody Agreements

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Extracurricular Activities Included in Joint Legal Custody Decisions

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Permissible Parenting Time Provisions in Family Violence Cases

    An Analysis of Georgia House Bill 369: Effective Date

    Your Custody Plan

    Dreamstime_3821436 Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean being complex. Simple plans, with both parents working together for the benefit of their children, work the best.

    There are two perspectives to keep in mind: yours, as parents, and your children’s. Don’t jam your children’s lives into your schedule if you want to have a successful plan. You’ll run yourself ragged, and end up frustrating the children. Look at the natural schedules of your children, already in place, and see how you can fit into them. You will make them partners in your plan, in a way, because it seems like their plan.

    Weekends are traditionally a change of pace for both you and your children. Assuming you work all week, you will have time on the weekends to spend with your children, who have time for you because they’re not in school. It’s a natural time for your children to move from one parent to the other for a few days or the entire week.

    If regular weekends don’t coincide on your schedule and your children’s, look to see what works best. If you have Monday and Tuesday off, it usually makes more sense to have the children on those days than leave them alone while you’re at work on Saturday and Sunday.

    Don’t limit the time the time you schedule with your children to the weekends. A few hours in the evening with your children is at least as valuable as the playtime on the weekends. You’ll be more involved in parenting with the day-to-day activities than in taking them to the park, the movies or the beach on the weekend. Your children may be old enough to take care of themselves after school. If they’re too young to be on their own, arrange quality after-school care. Start thinking like a single parent.

    Don’t split your children up as part of a plan except perhaps in the case of older children who have very strong opinions about where they want to live. Continue to spend time with each of them alone occasionally; simply avoid breaking the family further apart unless there’s a reason that can’t be ignored. Your children are bonded to each other and fill important roles in each other’s lives.

    Assume that your children are in grade school and you work from about eight to five each weekday. Your basic options for having the children include: (1) a week at a time changing custody each Friday evening, for example; or (2) every Sunday evening through Friday evening, plus every other weekend; or (3) every weekend; or (4) every other weekend. Whenever you’ll be away from your children for four or more days, try to schedule a visit with them for a few hours somewhere in the middle of the gap. If you can’t spend an hour or two with them, give them a telephone call.

    Expand the basic weekend schedule when you want to include an extra day at the start, or end, or both. It’s easy to pick your children up Thursday night or keep them until Monday night. You’ll each get a slice of the other’s regular routine, and it doesn’t increase the number of trips back and forth.

    Don’t expect your children to drag a suitcase to school when they’ll be staying with you. Make it easy on them by having what they will need while with you on hand. If necessary to transfer a lot of “stuff,” pick it and them up at the other parent’s home. When either of you pick up the children, let the other know about any special problems or schedule changes. However, this is not the time to discuss your problems with your ex-spouse.

    Holidays should be shared as equally as possible. It’s not usually practical to split up each holiday; instead, alternate from year to year on the important days. Stagger them so the parent getting Thanksgiving doesn’t get the next holiday. If you remain in the same community, each of you may be able to see your children on their birthdays; if not, then start the practice of giving them two birthday celebrations.

    (more…)

    Creating Co-Parenting Plans that Work

    Dreamstime_3533359 Whatever disadvantages there may be to sitting down with your soon-to-be ex-spouse to work out a parenting plan there is one undeniable truth to keep you at the table: You two are the only people who truly know your children, their needs, the demands of all of your schedules and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each parent. By working together to make a plan that fits both your lives, you avoid a court’s cookie-cutter solutions. Hopefully, you also create a new framework for the active participation by each of you in the care and raising of your children. Remember, statistics show that parents who prepare a plan jointly are 80% more likely to comply with it than if a plan is imposed upon them by a third party. An experienced family law attorney can help you create a plan that is right for you and your family.

    To make a parenting plan that works, family and divorce experts recommend crafting a plant that is both specific and flexible. You should create a workable system for dividing responsibilities so that the plan can work whether parents get along well or not. You can rotate primary responsibilities or you can agree to delegations when you agree that one parent has an issue covered. Be sure to include terms requiring each parent to treat each other with respect in front of the children or when they can overhear conversations. Determine how future conflicts will be resolved and build in periods of review and adjustment-usually after the first year and then every two or three years thereafter.

    Items that should be included in every parenting plan include:

    • Visitation/Shared Parenting Schedules
      • Use a regular calendar and a school calendar to plan for and anticipate school breaks and holidays, summer vacations and weekend start and stops.
      • Define when holidays start and end.
      • Remember to include days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day and birthdays.
      • Create a formula for anticipatable events that will work for the first one to two years of the plan’s life.
      • Don’t forget to include drop-off and pick-up times and locations.
    • Access for both parents to medical and school records, teachers and activities
      • Make sure both parents have the right to make emergency medical decisions.
    • Child support payments and inclusions
      • Include what is covered and who gets the tax deductions.
      • Designate whether payment will be made directly or through state support divisions.
      • Make sure the paying spouse has adequate life insurance to cover support obligations in case of a sudden death.
      • Designate which parent is responsible for costs associated with children’s ongoing medical and dental insurance and related expenses.
      • Don’t forget childcare, education and extra-curricular activity expenses and whether they will be paid directly to the provider.
      • Address how you will deal with delinquent payments.
    • Travel details and expenses when parents live in different states
      • Be specific if there are age-related travel concerns or other requirements.
      • State any restriction on domestic or international travel.
    • Changes and Notifications
      • Draft a set of rules for how you will deal with changes like special events or unanticipated business travel.
      • Set up a system that gives the other parent notice on a considerate basis when making long term plans or changes in address, telephone number or employment.
      • Include notice provisions for school activities, events, and conferences.
      • Establish how notice will be given of new childcare providers, children’s location during visitation and new relationships or people present during time with children.

    And Don’t Forget….

    Parents end up back in court when they fail to plan for events in the future. Make sure your parenting plan contains provisions that address:

    • Future moves to different states
    • Elective medical/dental procedures like orthodontics
    • Impact of loss of employment or disability
    • Methods and timeline for child support review
    • College selection and expenses
    • Adjusting visitation based on children’s ages

    To ensure you have adequately addressed all appropriate custody issues, you should review your parenting plan with an experienced family law attorney prior to agreeing to a final version or having it entered as an order by the court.

    SOURCE: FindLaw