Step parenting has a high learning curve. A new parent comes in and suddenly needs to know all about raising children. On top of that, there are usually child custody issues going on that the step parent needs to be aware of and know about. This may be a lot of unfamiliar ground for the step parent to cover. Here is some helpful information about parenting plans that can make step parenting easier.
Your spouse and the child’s other biological parent should have created a parenting plan or custody agreement. If the custody case is still going on, they are still in the process of making this plan. The plan gives details about how the child custody arrangements will go and the responsibilities of each parent. Basically, it is the individual law book that governs this particular child custody situation.
The biggest part of the parenting plan is the custody and visitation schedule. This is something every step parent should know very well and make accommodations for. If the marriage between you as the step parent and the other parent requires a change in the schedule you can do that through a custody modification. It is very important for both parents to follow the schedule exactly. If one parent denies the other visitation, or a parent doesn’t show up for visitation, they can be held in contempt of court. Step parents should be understanding about how rigid this schedule is.
An important thing that the parent and step parent should do is keep documentation of the custody and visitation schedule. This can be as simple as a binder with some notes about each visit, or notes about when the visits change. You can also be more high tech and get a computer program that lets you keep track of actual visitation time versus the scheduled time and keep notes in the program. This is especially good to do if the case is ongoing or the parents are continually going back to court.
Another part of the parenting plan is the provisions that the parents must abide by. As a step parent, it is crucial that you understand and know these provisions. Because, if you break one, the parent can be held in contempt of court. People can choose whatever provisions they want. Some people include a stipulation that neither parent can speak negatively of the other parent in the child’s presence. Or, that the parents must notify each other when they move. Most provisions are things of that nature.
While step parenting, you can help the other parent adhere to the parenting plan and also suggest options if the parenting plan is still being created. This can help you get a handle on the child custody situation and help you work better with the family.