It is graduation day and your child looks out from the stage and waves to you. They scan the crowd to find their dad but can’t. Then they remember. This week they are with you, which means they don’t get to see their dad.

That is not how child custody and parenting plans should work. Use them as the framework for splitting child time with your ex but allow some flexibility. Your child will only graduate once, so they should be able to have both parents present. However much you struggle to get on with your ex, remember the golden rule of child custody: Do what is in your children’s best interests. On certain occasions, the best thing is to have both parents present.

A graduation ceremony is full of people. It is easy to avoid your ex. If you are holding a small birthday party for your child in your house, inviting the other parent may be awkward. If so, then there are ways to get around it. Perhaps they could take the child out for a few hours before the party starts so that they get to see each other on the birthday.

Flexibility also comes in handy at other times. It allows you to go away for a long weekend when invited by friends, even though you usually have your child on weekends. It will enable you to stay late for an important work meeting, even though you typically pick the kids up from school.

Sharing parenting works best when there is some give and take. If you are flexible with the other parent, they will be flexible with you. Seek legal help to understand more about how child custody works.