The 3 Year-Old’s Divorce

Ever heard parents say that they hope their divorce really messes up their kids?  I’ve not and hope that I never do.  

However, the same parents who want to minimize the impact of divorce on their children may not take the time to learn – whether through really studying or getting an expert’s perspective – what their child’s age means to how they will process the divorce. 

Preparing for divorce or preparing for child-rearing in a divorced-world means “know thy child’s developmental stage.”   Any child psychologist worth their salt will tell you that what a 3 year-old needs in a parenting schedule is different from what a teenager needs.  I bet you didn’t need an expert to tell you that fact.   

But, most parents don’t know what those developmental differences would look like in a visitation schedule.   Parents can, however, put steps in place to address the changing needs of their children in their Parenting Plans – at the start.    

Most divorcing parents can derive benefit from consulting with a child psychologist either in conjunction with building their parenting plan and/or in conjunction with how they will communicate the issues relating to divorce to their children.  Many parents are so relieved to have reached an initial agreement that thinking about how their child’s needs will differ in four years is simply…unthinkable.  But, it is simple to plan for it and create predictability for addressing the child’s growth and changing needs. 

Below is a “Parenting Plan Review” clause that has worked for some co-parents – consider if it will work for you:

Parenting Plan Review:  [Parents] agree to review the parenting time or visitation schedule contained in their Parenting Plan (“the Plan”) by jointly meeting with a qualified child psychologist [if possible, enter specific name or health facility] during the summer vacation before [child’s name] enters [insert the appropriate benchmarks:  pre-school, First Grade, Middle School, High School] for at least one session that will last at least fifty (50) minutes and that this session or initial session will occur during the month of June of that year [or those years].  The review of the Plan required by this clause shall focus only on the schedule of parenting time and/or visitation.   

Following this meeting or the conclusion of the number of sessions mutually agreed to by [the parents] with the child psychologist, [the parents] agree to attend mediation if an agreement regarding the Plan’s schedule of parenting time or visitation has not been reached.  Such mediation session shall occur no later than August 15 of the year in which the parenting plan is reviewed.  Should no agreement be reached regarding the schedule at mediation, the Plan’s parenting time and/or visitation schedule will continue without any change and, having exhausted each step in this process which is triggered and based exclusively on the agreed need to evaluate developmental changes of their child(ren), either parent then may pursue a legal modification to the plan in a relevant court of law and in accordance with the relevant law.   This agreement to mediate before seeking modification to the parenting plan’s parenting time and/or visitation schedule applies only to reasons involving the foreseeable developmental benchmarks of their child(ren) as set forth in this clause and for no other reason. 

With regard to the actions required in this clause, the costs of the session(s) with the child psychologist that fall outside any insurance coverage and/or the costs of mediation will be split evenly between the parents. 

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3 Responses to The 3 Year-Old’s Divorce

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