Your marriage lasted for a decade, but you’ve decided it’s finally time to part. You have three kids, and you and your spouse both agree that you want to focus on them during the divorce. You’re not on great terms, but you’re willing to work together and help make things go as smoothly as possible.

This is a great place to start, and something many divorcing couples can’t claim. If you’re serious about working with your spouse, here are five things to consider while setting up your parenting plan and child custody arrangement:

1. Your schedules.

Parents do have a tendency to be overly optimistic when looking at their schedules. It’s great that you want to spend time with the child, but always keep your expectations grounded in reality. Don’t say that you can do more or less than you really can, as it can lead to conflicts later on.

2. The extra things your kids do.

Your children may go to school, and you need to plan around it — and summer vacation — but don’t forget all of the extras. Maybe your son plays basketball or is in the drama club. Maybe your daughter is in the debate club or on the gymnastics team. Remember to plan everything so that your kids don’t have to give up these activities.

3. The ages and personalities of the children.

Your kids are not all the same, and the same plan and structure may not work for all of them. Maybe your oldest likes to spend time with friends and is very independent. Maybe the youngest really just wants to stay at the house. Children need very different types of care and assistance at different ages, and your plan must address that.

4. Your own social plans.

Obviously, a lot of your planning is around your work schedule, but you also have a social life. How does that impact what you want to do with the kids? How might you have to change your social life after the divorce is finalized?

5. The distance.

In a lot of ways, it’s easiest on everyone if you and your ex decide to live close to one another. The kids are going to spend a lot of time going back and forth, and it’s much different if that’s a five-minute ride and not a two-hour ride. Remember that where the children are has a big impact on their own social lives and peer groups. Regardless, plan around your living situations accordingly.

Your kids are important to you, and you are already focused on them. Make sure you know how to keep that focus through this legal process. At the same time, always be aware of your own rights and obligations as a parent.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001