Recently divorced parents face the challenge of adjusting their schedules for their children. There’s doctor appointments, sports practices, school, and the time you get to bond with your child — parenting time that now needs to be divided up.
Our goal here at Vaught Law Firm is to help parents co-parent effectively when the case is over. We encourage parents to always put the needs of their children first when involved in a divorce and figure out the best way for them to do that.
If both parents agree that co-parenting their children is the most important thing to their family, building a custody schedule by week, month, or year is doable. Here are some of our tips on communicating, creating a co-parenting schedule, and helping children adjust to the changes that come after a divorce.
Tips for Shared Parenting
How Age Plays a Factor
Circumstances regarding the custody of a child can differ based on their age. Depending on the child’s age, they may be able to take part in the custody process, particularly starting at the age of 12.
For children under the age of 3, child custody will be determined between the primary parties and the court. Factors include:
- Willingness and availability to provide care for the child
- The child’s physical, medical, and otherwise unique needs
- Relationship between parents
- Geographic distance between the child’s parents
- Additional factors can apply
For children aged 12 and older:
- Children can potentially have a part in the custody process regarding where they would prefer to live. The court, however, does not have to abide by their request.
Kids don’t need to spend the majority of time in one home.
It’s more important for children to have emotional stability than geographical stability. Emotional stability is critical for healthy development and many parents underestimate their ability to adapt to new communities and relationships.
Organize the calendar to suit your (the parent’s) circumstances, not the kids.
One parent, or sometimes both, needs to move out and into a different home. The initial schedule may need to be temporary until the other parent is settled into their new home. This is when good communication between parents is essential.
If infants are involved, it takes special consideration; both parents should be involved.
Many believe that it’s crucial for mothers to be with infants round-the-clock for healthy development. However, there is no research to support this. It’s perfectly fine for the other parent to spend a night with the infant. Infants should be accustomed to the other parent coming to take care of them, and this is important bonding time for parents and child.
Custody Support from Third Parties
There are circumstances where a third party can take responsibility for child custody. Third parties can include the child’s grandparents, siblings, and other relatives to the child. This can include partners of the child’s biological parent as well. Such cases often stem from the child’s biological parents being unable to provide for their child due to unforeseen circumstances.
Often, grandparents are the third parties requesting responsibility for the child’s care when the primary parent is deemed ‘unfit’ for the child. A third party can seek custody of the child, but the court will determine whether they are deemed ‘fit’ for caring for the child. This requires the seeker of custody to be mentally and financially sound.
Ways to Communicate
Best used in cases of emergency. Using text isn’t always the best way to communicate as it can be easy to confuse what the other person is saying or to misread the text.
Speaking over the phone, especially in the beginning, could be too intense for some parents and may lead to off-topic discussions unrelated to the children. Keeping it short and factual helps.
This is a good choice to use for communication purposes because it’s short and not as pushy as a phone call or text. Plus, it allows you to have a record of your communication to refer back to.
Making a Co-Parenting Plan and Visitation Schedule
There are a lot of things to consider when you’re trying to figure out which schedule best works for your children. Parents need to think about the schedule will affect their children’s emotional, physical, and social needs. There are many ways to make a shared custody schedule and it’s always okay to modify it if circumstances change.
It’s especially difficult for men and women who work unusual schedules, like airline employees, road warriors, hospital workers, police officers, firefighters, etc. These parents may have a harder time crafting a schedule, but it’s not impossible. Vaught Law Firm has plenty of experience in this area and can help parents craft a customized schedule that fits their needs.
It might also be a good idea to create a holiday schedule and a summer break schedule. They may change the amount of time each parent has with the children, but if you have a regular schedule that isn’t 50/50, the holiday schedule or summer schedule can help make the parenting time more equal.
A 3rd party time slot might also need to be added into your schedule, to show when your children aren’t staying with either parent. This can mark visits with grandparents, when your child is in school or daycare, or trips. This will help show more accurately how much quality parenting time each parent has and it might also change the parenting timeshare percentages.
Here are a few examples of visitation schedules for parents sharing custody:
A 50/50 schedule allows each parent to have the children 50% of the time and can help children be more comfortable with the new arrangement because it allows them to live with both parents and build a close relationship with them both.
There are several different ways to modify the schedule and still keep it 50/50.
Here’s some examples of when 50/50 schedules work best:
- Both parents live close to each other so dropoffs and pickups are easier.
- Both parents can communicate with each other without fighting over the children.
- The children are okay with switching between the parents’ homes.
- Both parents agree on putting their children’s’ best interest first and agree the 50/50 schedule is the best one for the children.
Alternating Week Schedule
The children spend 1 week with one parent and the next week with the other parent.
2 Weeks Schedule
The children spend 2 weeks with one parent and then 2 weeks with the other parent.
The children spend 3 days with one parent, 4 days with the other parent, 4 days with the first parent, and then 3 days with the other parent.
The children spend 2 days with one parent, 2 days with the other parent, and then 3 days with the first parent. Then it switches the next week.
Alternate Every 2 Days
The children switch between the parents every 2 days.
Every Extended Weekend Schedule
The children spend the weekdays with one parent and a long weekend with the other parent.
The children spend 4 days with one parent and 3 days with the other parent.
The 70/30 schedule gives one parent significantly more time with the children than the other parent, but if one parent wants a more equal parenting time, a holiday schedule or summer break schedule to give the other parent more time. Another way to give the other parent more time is to add a midweek or overnight visit. Adding either of those suggestions to the schedule will help both parents feel more involved in caring for the children.
The parent who is given 30% of the time schedule should try to make efforts to stay in touch with the children through phone calls, texting, emails, video chatting, etc. This will help the parent feel more a part of the children’s lives even if they not physically spending more time with them.
Here are some examples of when 70/30 schedules work best:
- The children do better with only one home as base.
- Both parents live far from each other.
- One parent has a busier work schedule or travels often.
- Both parents want to be involved with the children, but a 50/50 or 60/40 schedule doesn’t work the situation.
Every Weekend Schedule
The children live with one parent during the weekdays and the other parent on the weekends.
The children live with one parent for 5 days and the other parent for 2 days.
Every Third Week Schedule
The children live with one parent for 2 weeks and the other parent for one week.
Every Third Day Schedule
The children live with one parent for two days and the other parent for one day.
Alternating Weekends Schedule
The children live with one parent and visit the other parent every other weekend.
1st, 3rd, and 5th Weekends Schedule
The children live with one parent and visit the other parent every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend.
2nd, 4th, and 5th Weekends Schedule
The children live with one parent and visit the other parent every 2nd, 4th, and 5th weekend.
Every 3rd Weekend Schedule
The children live with one parent and visit the other parent every 3rd weekend.
Long Distance Visitation Schedules
If parents live in separate states, or are a very long distance from each other, the children live with one parent and visit the other parent. The exact amount of visitation time depends on the children’s ages, their needs, and what works for the parents’ situation.
When building the long distance visitation schedule, it might be a good idea to also schedule time for phone calls and video calls on the calendar. It’s also important to decide how the parents will pay for the children’s travel, which parent will schedule travel arrangements, and if you want to schedule times when the non-resident parent can visit, how it will work when they do visit the children.
- One visit every month if parent can afford it or arrange driving.
- A visit every other weekend or for 2 or 3 weekends a month.
- A visit one weekend a month.
- One weekend every other month.
- A 5 – 7 day visit every 2 – 3 months for young children who are not in school.
- Long weekend visits when the children have a day off from school.
Long Distance Holiday Schedules
Usually the nonresidential parent who is not able to have the children the majority of the time is given the children when they are off school for smaller holidays or breaks. Scheduling phone calls and visits from the nonresidential parent for the holidays is also an option. Summer breaks usually allow the nonresidential parent to also get the children for at least 6 – 8 weeks.
As children grow older, changing the custody schedule will be necessary. A child’s independence will grow and needs will change. It may take time to adjust to what is now the new normal, but parents are always encouraged to try and come to an agreement and support each parent’s participation in the lives of their children.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
Vaught Law Firm, P.C., is located in Austin, TX and has considerable experience with child support, custody, and visitation cases. Again, no matter what your work schedule or family situation is like, we have experienced attorneys who can help you customize a co-parenting schedule that fits everyone’s needs, most importantly the children’s.
Our goal is for people to be able to co-parent effectively when the case is over. Get in touch with us if you’d like us to help represent your case in court.