When parents co-parent following a divorce, they must put aside their differences and coordinate their children’s daily schedule – from school events to doctor appointments to sleepovers with friends. A well-thought-out parenting schedule is in the best interest of the children and will ease the transition from a one-household to a two-household lifestyle.
Best Parenting Time Schedule
The custody arrangements are usually agreed upon before completing the divorce, and there are several routines that work best. It is important to realize that no final divorce agreement is written in stone. When circumstances change, either parent can request a revision of the custody arrangements.
Let’s consider some of the favorite routines that work for many families:
Biweekly Parenting Schedule
This type of schedule allows the children to spend one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent. Both parents get equal time, but they need to work out the specifics of the schedule – when does an exchange take place, what time, and who brings the children back and forth.
Since each parent has a full week (seven whole days) with the children, many families agree on a mid-week sleepover with the other parent. This assures that children and parents don’t go an entire week without having physical contact. This is especially important when it involves younger children.
The 2-2-3 routine differs from the biweekly schedule in that the custody cycle is shorter than seven days. The children spend two days with one parent and two days with the other parent, then return to the first parent for a three-day weekend.
While the children move back and forth more frequently, the time spent without seeing one or the other parent is shorter – never more than three days. This schedule works if everyone is flexible. If the children find a constant disruption to their routine problematic, this will be more difficult.
2-2-5-5 and 3-3-4-4 Routines
2-2-5-5 and 3-3-4-4 routines are equal custody schedules. They simply allow for more frequent time together for parents and children during the week.
A 2-2-5-5- schedule calls for the children to spend two days with one, and then the other, parent. Then, both parents get five days. After the five-day stay with the second parent, the two-day routine starts over.
This schedule allows children to see both parents frequently during the week, and it allows for flexibility when a parent wishes to attend a school function and other outings with the children.
Whether by choice or circumstances, not all families can have an equal 50-50 division of time for parents and children. That means that there is a custodial parent with whom the children spend the majority of their time; the other parent has visitations as agreed upon. Such visitations usually include the weekend or every other weekend. It can also include a mid-week stay-over with the non-custodial parent.
Creating a Workable Co-parenting Schedule
Co-parenting schedules will vary according to the age of the children and the parents’ non-adjustable circumstances, such as jobs.
Of course, contact between parents and children is not limited to in-person visits. Thanks to modern technology, video chats can be arranged at any time.
Both parents should have access to the co-parenting calendar to provide a regular routine and to ensure that all parties are kept apprised of important events. If one parent is unaware of a school function or sporting event, he or she and the children will miss out on being together for an important occasion.
As stated, a co-parenting routine can change with the age of the child. A toddler is easier to schedule than a teenager who may have a schedule and activities of his or her own that parents need to keep in mind. A schedule can also consider a parent’s circumstances. If one parent needs to travel frequently for business, a 50-50 scheduling plan may be more difficult to achieve. The more the parents can cooperate, the healthier the children’s lives will be in a post-divorce situation.
Shared Parental Responsibility
In the State of Florida, terms such as “custody” are no longer used as it emphasizes the importance of one parent over the other. The fact is most parents going through a divorce want equal parent/children time. This is certainly in the best interest of the children, who now have equal access to both parents. The parents may no longer live together, but the children now can switch easily between two homes and be assured of a welcome in both.
This responsibility demands that both parents work together and respect each other’s rights. Their differences should not interfere with the interests of the children.
When parents divorce, there traditionally has been a custodial parent whom the children could rely on. All-too-frequently, they saw far too little of the other parent; they may have even wondered whether that other parent whom they visited only occasionally really loved and wanted them. An equal co-parenting schedule, however it may be set up, removes doubts from the child’s mind. Both mom and dad are there when needed. Parents should encourage children to share information with all parties. Emails, text messages, and the internet make it easy for everyone to stay in touch, and neither parent will feel “shut out” from his or her children’s lives.
As the children age, they will form attachments with people other than their parents and with other children. It is important to understand how children develop to help them adjust to a two-parent household. This is especially true for teenagers, who may benefit from having their wishes considered and allowing them a say in scheduling the co-parenting plan.
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