When you enter custody mediation, your focus is most likely on creating a parenting schedule and dividing decision-making responsibility. However, there are several other topics to address at mediation that you won’t want to forget about.
Claiming the child on taxes
Parents often wait to figure out who will claim the child on taxes. By the time they get around to it, one parent has already claimed the child — often without permission.
Save yourself the headache of an audit from the IRS and specify in your parenting plan who can claim the child. If you have multiple children, you could allow each parent to claim a child. If you have one child, you may alternate claiming the child each year.
Guardianship in the event of a parent’s death or incapacitation
Though it’s unsettling to think about, you should have a legal guardian in line to care for your child if you’re no longer able.
Ask the person you intend to name as the guardian before including them in your parenting plan; you’ll want to make sure they’re willing to accept the responsibility.
Proxies for exchanges
Will you allow someone other than you and the other parent to pick up or drop off the child during exchanges? Identify who these people are. You can keep it broad, e.g., anyone both parents know. This can also extend to who is allowed to take the child to school, doctor’s appointments, etc.
Knowing where your child is during visits
To avoid arguments during parenting time, set out if and how parents will communicate about the child’s whereabouts during visits. You can get more specific by setting out scenarios when this is required — for example, when the child is being taken outside of the city limits.
Posting the child on social media
Talk about whether you’ll allow the photos or videos of your child to be shared on social media. Must one parent ask the other for permission before posting anything related to the child? You might specify that posts about the child cannot be public. Also, if the child is old enough, discuss whether they are allowed to have their own social media accounts.
Sharing photos and videos
Sharing the special moments you have with your children is important. Discuss whether you’ll have a system for sharing yearbook photos, photos and videos from vacation, etc. Consider using a photo-sharing app.
Interacting with new partners
Talk about how you’ll handle introducing new partners to your child and other details of repartnering. Is there a minimum amount of time the parent must be in a relationship before they can introduce a partner to the child? Can the child call a new partner “Mom” or “Dad”? Can the partner attend the child’s sporting events?
Disciplining the children
Setting a plan for how you will discipline the children will help keep things consistent between households. Will you enforce the same rules? If the child loses cell phone privileges in one home, must the other parent enforce the same?
Benefits of a thorough parenting plan
A well-thought-out plan will help you stay on the same page, key to a successful co-parenting relationship. A few benefits of a detailed parenting plan are:
Preparing for mediation is key to creating a thorough parenting plan. Use a parenting plan checklist to help you brainstorm topics to raise at mediation. Write down every matter you want to discuss before going to mediation.
Get the most out of mediation by covering all your bases.
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