Getting a parenting schedule down on paper is one of the most important parts of a legal separation or divorce. It’s about more than just some overnight visits. The parents have to consider all the aspects of their children’s schedules, including medical appointments, bedtimes, holidays, school events, extracurricular activities and more. The schedule is also dependent on the age of the children and their abilities to withstand transitions or time away from the primary parent.
There is no universal schedule that works for everyone, but there are a few common routines used by parents that can be individualized to several different family situations. If you and your co-parent will be or already are working on the parenting plan schedule, consider one of the following patterns as a foundation for it.
The Biweekly Routine
With a biweekly parenting schedule, the children spend one week with each parent at a time. This can work for older kids who have busy schedules or in situations where the parents live across town from each other. Whether your exchange takes place during the week or over the weekends, agree on a time during the week to transport the children between homes. Decide how the exchange will go. Will you drop off the children at the other parent’s home and will he or she do the same, or is there going to be a location you’ll both use?
Because this type of schedule creates longer parenting time stretches, you can tweak it to include a mid-week overnight or visit with the other parent. With this adjustment, neither parent goes an entire week without seeing the kids.
The 2-2-3 Pattern
As with the biweekly schedule, the 2-2-3 rotation allows parents to split the parenting time evenly. Each parent has the child for two days, then they go to the other parent for two days, and then back to the first parent for a three-day weekend. After that, the routine starts over but begins with the second parent having the kids for the first two days, and so on. Another option is for each parent to have the same days (Monday and Tuesday for one, Wednesday and Thursday for the other) and to rotate the weekends. This makes for fewer transitions.
Routines with frequent exchanges like the 2-2-3 allow parents and children to spend time together more often. However, it can be tougher for parents who don’t live near each other in terms of transportation, and it may be harder for a child who struggles with changes.
The 2-2-5-5 and 3-3-4-4 Schedules
The 2-2-5-5 and 3-3-4-4 patterns are also schedules that allow for even parenting time and more transition. However, these schedules allow the children and parent to spend regular days together over the course of the week, unlike the 2-2-3, on which the days may change. Because these patterns create a regular schedule, they can work better with children who have a hard time with changes.
Uneven Parenting Time Rotations
Some families do not split parenting time evenly. In these situations, the child lives with the primary parent while the other parent has them for short overnights and a day or two during the week.
In this situation, the home of the custodial parent will be where the children live most of the time, while the other parent spends time with them during mid-day visitations or for short overnights. Other visits can be added to increase the amount of time the child spends with the other parent, such as an extended alternating weekend visit.
Communication is Essential
Every family is different, and the needs of the children should be met first and foremost when the parenting schedule is created. Since you and your co-parent have life variables, such as jobs, that you may not be able to adjust to meet a regular parenting schedule, communication is incredibly important. If you can’t spend an overnight with them or have to miss a visit, let the other parent know as soon as possible and keep in touch with your kids using the phone or another method, such as a video chat.
Keep in mind that the perfect parenting schedule of today may need to be tweaked for tomorrow. As your kids grow up and lives change, so should the parenting schedule.