With your decision-making parenting plan in one hand and the answers to some important questions about jobs and schedules in the other, you are ready to start marking up a calendar to decide how to divide custodial time. You might want to print out some calendars and mark them up with different schedules. Printed calendars make it easier to evaluate the possible plans.
When you are working in mediation or collaborative law, you can create most any schedule you want to create to suit your families' needs.
The schedules I’m describing in this post are examples of what has worked for some families. Of course, if you cannot develop a plan through mediation, negotiation, or collaborative processes, you will be stuck with a schedule that a judge creates that may or may not be tailored to your families’ needs.
Most of the plans I’ve included are those that parents developed in mediation and are plans best suited for families when the parents are willing to work together. These plans are usually adopted when the children are at least three or four years old. If you are in a high conflict situation you should work with your collaborative practice team to modify these schedules to reduce situations conflict. If you still have pre-school children, be sure to check back next week when I will be addressing this and other special situations in developing a parenting plan.
One other caveat: I am not outlining the merits of each plan. The administrative office of the Arizona Courts has developed an excellent guide that provides advantages and disadvantages to multiple plans. Download it here.
Here are a few ideas for schedules with school age children when the parents are working together well:
- Alternating weeks: In this schedule, a child lives at each house every other week.
- 4-3; 3-4. In alternating weeks, the children spend four nights at one parent's house and three at the other. You can structure the days so that parents alternate weekends if that is important due to their work schedules.
- School nights in one house; the rest of the time in the other. In this plan, the child spends Monday morning through Friday afternoon with one parent; and most of the rest of the time with the other. This plan is often adopted where the parents agree that the children should be in one house on school nights, but still want to balance the time between houses. Usually, the parent who has the children on school nights picks them up after school on Monday (or Tuesday if there is no school). The child stays at their house Monday-Thursday nights and then the other parent on the weekends. Some families also have the children spend one weekend per month with the parent who has the children during the school nights. To balance the time equally between households, the parent who does not have the children on school nights often has them for most of the summer as well as extended breaks (winter and spring break).
- School nights in one house, school breaks in the other. When one parent lives far away, it is more challenging to co-parent. That parent will necessarily have to have the children during the long chunks of time when the children are not in school In this situation; the parents often have the children live with one parent during the school year and the other during the summer, during Thanksgiving Break, Spring Break and most of Christmas Break. Depending on distance, they may also have one weekend a month (often a long weekend) with the parent who is living far away.
In my next post on this series about parenting plans, I’ll share some ideas on how to develop custodial time in the face of long distances, young children, and other challenges. Please contact me if you have questions or would like to get started on developing your own parenting plan.