A residency plan sets out with whom the children will live when. In broad terms there are two possibilities:
The children reside with one parent and have times that are clearly defined of contact with their other parent.
Shared residency is a residential option that parents exercise, sharing time on a relatively equal and defined basis between the two newly established households.
Residency and contact plans
A defined and reasonable residency plan could give definition and structure to adults and children’s lives during a period of great uncertainty. It could act as mechanism for the parents to establish appropriate levels of emotional closeness and distance between them through a newly defined co-operative parental relationship.
It is necessary for adults to:
Minimize negotiations between them.
Establish independent relationships with their children.
Have some certainty about their and the children’s daily routine.
Develop as soon as possible a co-operative parental relationship, which is separate from their spousal relationship.
Enlist professional assistance if they cannot resolve these issues or if they need to check whether their plans meet the best interest of the child standard.
It is necessary for children to:
Know that they will have contact with both parents.
Have consistent contact with the non-residential parent on established and appropriate times.
Experience safety in other words not has to fear the ongoing eruptions of arguments or even violence that will inevitably take place when their parents see each other.
Fact: A loosely structured residential arrangement where parents negotiate with each other about where the children will be where on a daily basis is a breeding ground for conflict and the ideal arena for conflict to erupt.
For parents the following checklist could provide guidelines in establishing residential arrangements:
Is the arrangement adequately defined in order to minimize the need for telephone calls and negotiations between parents? It is not enough to state that the non-residential parent will have contact on alternate weekends. Times and days need to be specified. In some instances it is necessary to define the place of collection and return and who would be responsible for these aspects.Example of residency plan.
Is the arrangement an accurate reflection of the non-residential parent’s relationship with the minor children? Realistically it does not make sense for a non-residential parent to have input in the children’s lives on 4 out of 30 days per month. Both parents need to be in a position to maximize their input in the children’s lives unless there are compelling reasons to indicate otherwise.
Is the arrangement appropriate for the ages of the children in question? For example a two week old baby cannot spend a weekend away from the primary caregiver. Adolescents will have their own social schedules to which both parents are secondary role-players and an alternate weekend arrangement might not suit them at all.More information on the different development needs of children of varying ages.
Some consequences of inappropriate residential arrangements are the following:
Children are exposed to ongoing arguments and conflict. This aspect has a ripple effect on children’s emotional, social and scholastic adjustment during and after divorce.
Applications for Family Protection Orders, warrants for arrests, arrests and trauma for all involved.
The extent of damage done to the parental relationship could be so far reaching that the establishment of a post-divorce co-operative parental relationship is unlikely. The quality of the parental relationship has been identified as a critical factor that will determine children’s long-term adjustment after a divorce. If this relationship is compromised the children’s’ long-term psychological well-being will be negatively affected.
The relationship between the children and their respective parents could be negatively affected.
The children will experience a sense of loss which could impact on their ability to form meaningful and psychologically intimate relationships with other.