Reality Testing Your Parenting Agreement
It’s not unusual for couples to discuss and agree upon an outline for a parenting plan before they begin mediation. When this happens, the mediator’s job is to talk to them about the practical effects of their agreement.
Both parents may believe that overnights during the week for the non-custodial parent would be good for the children. Reality dictates that you discuss if the children can get to school on time and have all of the things needed for that school day. This isn’t meant to discourage weekday overnights but to ensure that the parenting plan works.
Holidays and Birthdays:
It’s also natural for parents to say that they want to share all holidays and birthdays. Initially it seems like that would be good for the children, and since everything you are discussing in mediation is new and probably unimaginable to you, this seems normal. Reality dictates the mediator ask how it would work when one parent starts dating. Again, it doesn’t mean that the couple can’t do what they intended, but they could also decide to build into the agreement an alternate plan if one is dating or if it is just too painful for one to continue the practice.
Even something as simple as the concept of one parent having parenting time with the children every Saturday and the other having parenting time every Sunday will lead to questions. Will this allow each of you to have enough time with the children if that one day is filled with sporting or religious activities?
I always question my clients about relocation by one or both of them in the future. Usually neither of them will voice any plans or even a desire to relocate, but I remind them that circumstances can change with a job or a new spouse.
If it appears that there is a strong likelihood for relocation, it would be addressed head-on, and the agreement would include provisions for how it will be handled.
If a relocation is not imminent or likely, there would still be a discussion to decide if they want a radius clause and what happens if one parent wants to move.
As difficult and painful as it is to do all of this now, the last thing that you would want to do is have to re-mediate because something you thought would work so well turned out to be unworkable. All of these questions are just to make sure that your agreement will stand the test of time. While no mediator can predict each and every possibility that might arise to make your agreement unmanageable, they can try to apply the "reality test" as much as possible based upon their experience, so that the chances the couple will need to come back to mediation again will be very low.
Does your idea for a parenting plan pass the "reality test?"