Managing Parenting Swaps

After a New Mexico divorce or separation involving kids, having consistent parenting schedules is incredibly important. A regular routine is what helps your kids adjust to living in two different houses. When they have a clear idea of when they will see both parents, they can relax into the new routine and feel more confident in their new family structure.

Of course, even the most perfect schedule on paper will face one of life’s curveballs, and you and your co-parent may find yourselves talking about parenting time swaps to fix the unexpected conflicts in schedules. When the co-parenting relationship is working, these talks can be simple and straightforward, but if your relationship is still rocky, having these conversations can feel a bit like walking through a minefield.

To keep your parenting time swaps uncomplicated and clear cut regardless of your co-parenting situation, consider following these three rules. 

Keep Swaps at a Minimum

Occasionally, changes to your regular parenting schedules are going to happen. Family emergencies, last-minute business trips and other events may require parents to change the schedule to accommodate the unforeseen event. However, when one parent is constantly asking for changes, the family’s expectations and regular routine will suffer. It can be stressful for co-parents and children alike when there are constant schedule changes, and it is unfair to everyone involved.

Constant time swap requests may mean that the original parenting schedule is no longer the right fit in your case. If you or your co-parent need to change the schedule often, it may be time to talk to your family law attorney about changing the parenting plan. Make revisions to the parenting plan so it better reflects your family’s situation. This cuts down on frequent time swaps and keeps the schedule more regular going forward.

Set a Clear System for Handling Time Swaps

If your parenting plan has rules for swap requests, it will make everything easier. These rules should address how often swaps are allowed – limits can be set by quarter, month or year. In addition, set a time frame for non-emergency requests that can be made in advance and cover whether swaps or just one-way changes are allowed. Some plans require that a “true” swap has to be made, meaning that the parent who gains additional time has to grant that time back to the other parent at a later date. If you want more flexibility in your parenting plan, you may want to consider allowing for one-way changes that don’t require an equal exchange of parenting time.

Get It down on Paper

Deviations to a consistent parenting schedule can create confusion. When the requests are mixed in as part of other conversations or just don’t make it into your parenting calendar, they have the potential to lead to unnecessary conflict. However, if you have a clear system in place to document time swaps, it’s easier to avoid confusion and miscommunication over them. If you used a shared parenting calendar, for example, make sure it’s immediately updated any time there’s a schedule change. If you communicate by email, make sure only information on the swap is in the email, not other information about school or medical issues.

No matter what system you and your co-parent use to handle time swap requests, documentation and consistency are vital for keeping everything running smoothly and keeping conflict to a minimum. A consistent parenting schedule is an important piece of the co-parenting puzzle after a separation or divorce, so try to keep time swaps to a minimum. When there are unavoidable one-time changes to the schedule, however, communicate your request to your co-parent as far in advance as you can, and document those requests separately from other co-parenting conversations to avoid confusion down the road.