Published Articles. Mom, Dad, Are You Getting a Divorce? continued...
Develop a Parenting Schedule and Living Arrangements
Prior to the family meeting, decide what the living arrangements will be and develop a parenting schedule, keeping in mind the ages of the children. These decisions should be decided by the adults, not the children. Asking your children to choose with whom to live, places them in a no-win situation. It also allows children to threaten parents, using moving in with the other parent as a way of manipulating both of you. Nor do children have the experience or knowledge to make these types of decisions. Children respond more favorably when they see the two of you working cooperatively and making decisions about them. Parents have to decide what will work best for their family. When parents are unable to reach their own agreements, courts will make these decisions for them. However, each parent has the risk that these decisions may be made by others that may not be acceptable to either parent.
For those parents who are committed to reaching their own decisions, mediation is the way to go. It is a facilitated process in which a written plan is created by the two of you, as to how major decisions will be made concerning your children, where your children will reside, and how they will spend time with each of you. The plan includes other considerations such as transportation arrangements, methods of communicating, holiday arrangements, discipline and relocation. Following a comprehensive agenda during mediation sessions, both of you are able to craft a parenting schedule and arrangements that work best for you and your children. The mediation process also helps to keep you on track, focusing first on the needs of your children.
There are many resources available to help you and your children cope with the transition of separation or divorce. For example, "Mom’s House, Dad’s House," written by Isolina Ricci, (Fireside, 1997) and "Divorce Book for Parents," written by Vicki Lansky, (Book Peddlers, 2000) provide excellent suggestions on how to address the needs of the children during and following the process. In addition, the Assisting Children Through Transition (ACT) Program (phone 585-428-1930) through Monroe County Family Court is an outstanding program that is designed to educate divorcing or separating parents ways they can reduce the stress of family changes and protect their children from the negative effects of ongoing parental conflict.