Westchester Parent Coordination
Considering the Variables in Parenting Plans
One of the most difficult tasks facing divorcing parents is establishing appropriate guidelines for
parenting their children post-divorce.  Most experts believe, and I strongly concur, that there is no
one "cookie-cutter" parenting arrangement.  Such arrangements must be based, foremost, upon
children's needs.  This may seem like an obvious statement but parents often lose sight of the
fact that their own desires to optimize the time spent with their children may not always be in their
children's best interest.  What research and clinical practice have demonstrated overwhelmingly is
that the best determinant for a child's future well-being and good functioning is
not necessarily the
amount of time spent with either parent but with the degree of on-going parental conflict present in
the child's life.  Traditional visiting patterns, which presume that default physical custody should
reside with the mother, have been challenged in recent years by a preponderance of clinical and
empirical data.  Thus, Courts in many jurisdictions no longer operate from this traditional model
but rather take into account the variety of factors that contribute to children's well-being and best
prospects for present-day good function and later development.  
The ability of parents to
collaborate is one of the primary factors to be considered.  
Others, of course, include such
factors as developmental or special needs, financial considerations, parental functioning,
psychological and relationship issues, and many others.

You will note that rather than referring to post-divorce parent arrangements as "custody" I try to
consistently use the term "parenting."  Needless to say, children are not chattel, and the use of
the term "custody" has typically implied a kind of ownership which certainly has no place in how
parents should be thinking about their children's well-being post-divorce.  
No one owns kids!  And
kids are the first to let us know that, as soon as they are able to do so.  Thinking about how we
will parent our children after divorce makes far more sense than how we will take custody of them!

I would encourage you to look at two extremely helpful sites:

Both Arizona and Oregon have published extensive materials in helping parents to create
appropriate parenting plans.  They are not the only states to have done this but these two are
excellent in that both put a great deal of emphasis on the ways in which children's developmental
stages should be linked to how parenting plans should be constructed.  Both are very well done
and the result of much research and utilization of solid empirical data.  Click on them to examine
their suggestions.

Arizona Courts Parenting Plans
Oregon Courts Parenting Plans

Another thorny issue for parents is the question of overnight visitation and parenting plans for very
young children.  The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts has compiled, in its journal,
Family Court Review, a collection of essays: Overnights and Young Children: Essays from the
Family Court Review
.  This can be ordered through the website:
http://www.afccnet.org/shopping/afcc_publications.asp  

For those interested in a more scholarly examination of the issue of parenting arrangements I refer
you to an excellent article:  
Children's Living Arrangements Following Separation and Divorce:
Insights from Empirical and Clinical Research  by Joan B. Kelly