Creating A Custody Schedule

creating a custody scheduleCreating a child custody schedule isn’t always easy. Multiple factors should be considered, but the child’s well-being should always be the priority.  

4 Steps To Creating A Child Custody Schedule That Works

Unfortunately, although understandably, money is a driving force in child custody schedules because parents who have the kids less typically pay more. We understand this. However, the continuous transitions forced on a child due to household changes, schedules, rules, boundaries, etc., can cause emotional and academic challenges.

Remember: Child custody agreements are legally binding but can be negotiated multiple times until your children turn 18, depending on their needs. 

Consider working with a divorce and family law mediator who can help you create child custody and co-parenting agreements, which can minimize contention between the two of you.

Here are some helpful suggestions for creating a child custody schedule that works for your family.

Schedule sessions with a child/family therapist

We highly recommend working with a Bay Area family therapist to determine a schedule that would work best for your children based on their ages, needs, and personalities. For example, some client families exchange children every two days or so, and others alternate weeks. Older children may like rotations every two weeks as it gives them time to land in one home for longer, minimizing transitions. We’ve even had a client whose daughter spent six months in one house and six in the other because she couldn’t stand going back and forth more than that. Parents should always be willing to work with their children’s needs. 

We understand that it’s difficult to be away from your child. However, video apps, texts, phone calls, etc., make it possible to connect with children in a very personal way as much as you like. Children of divorce are at higher risk for emotional issues, depression, anxiety, and academic struggles. If keeping your child at one house more than another is easier on them, it might be the best way to handle things for now, even if it’s harder on you for a bit.

Consider the children’s ages and needs

The website Custody Xchange has a page dedicated to age-based guidelines for parenting plans and schedules based on research findings. One of our other favorite things about their page is that they highlight children’s physical, emotional, and boundary-based needs by age, which can help you create a co-parenting plan that always honors a “children first” mentality.

PRIORITIZE HEALTH COPARENTING: No matter what led you to a divorce, healthy co-parenting is essential for your children’s emotional stability and health. Do all that you can to streamline healthy communication while co-parenting

Their schedules and tips include recommendations for:

  • Babies. All children do best with stability, but this is especially true for babies who rely on a routine for nourishment, hygiene, and comfort. Regardless of what you decide, it’s essential that both parents can agree on – and uphold – the same schedule and routine for their baby to support healthy physical, mental, and emotional development.
  • Toddlers. Most toddlers fare best with a schedule that allows them to see each parent every two days. Again, routine is essential. Regardless of the water under your adult divorce bridge, maintaining consistency between homes is always in the children’s best interest.
  • Preschoolers and TK. Children at this age may prefer sticking with the two-day schedule but may be able to stretch to three days off – with parents sharing or alternating weekends.
  • School-age children (5 to 13). Children may have more input as they get older. Many parents find that split weeks with alternating extended weekends are the best way to go at this stage of the game. That said, some children do fine with every other week/weekend at this age, especially if there is a once-per-week dinner with the other parent or when the other parent is part of the school/extracurricular chauffeuring schedule.
  • High School. By this age, most children do fine with an every-other-week schedule. However, some prefer to be at each home for two weeks at a time for more stability and because they communicate with either parent independently. If your child is heavily involved in sports or extracurricular activities, they may no longer want to spend much time with a parent who lives outside of the school district, so that is worth taking into consideration.

Learn about all the scheduling options

Historically, child custody schedules were usually 80/20. Children spent 80% of their time with one parent (usually the mother) and 20% with the other. This meant spending every other weekend and a portion of school breaks with the non-custodial parent. But things have changed. Today, unless there’s just cause, most parents share 50% custody. However, scheduling that 50% depends on work schedules and the children’s age. 

We’ve briefly hit on some of the most common child custody schedules out there, but every family is different. In our post about healthy co-parenting communication, we referenced helpful apps, one of which is Our Family Wizard. Their website offers a range of parenting schedules that work well but may require extra calendaring on your part. 

Examples include:

  • The 2-2-5-5 rotation. With this one, children spend two days with one parent, two days with the other, then five days with the first parent, and five days with the other. 
  • The 3-3-4-4. This schedule is like the 2-2-5-5, but it’s done with three/four days in between.

These schedules can be a healthy bridge for younger children when they switch from switching homes every two days to a week-on/week-off schedule. It allows everyone to get used to the longer stay routine.

Have written agreements that cover everything…

Consistency is essential for all children. You do your child no favors when you opt to be the “easy” or “fun” parent. You’re actually setting your children up for emotional angst, anxiety, and confusion. In fact, “setting up a routine ASAP” is #3 on our list of 5 tips for helping children cope with divorce.

One of the best things you can do during and after your divorce is to sit down and draw up schedules and agreements that both of you pledge to uphold. This includes things like:

  • How communication will take place.
  • Using a co-parenting app to facilitate things.
  • Schedules for sleeping, napping, homework, etc.
  • Rules and consequences.
  • Tech and screen time boundaries.

Again, your divorce mediator or the family therapist can help you create and uphold these agreements and support both of you when things aren’t going smoothly.

Schedule Divorce Mediation At The Law Offices Of Gerard A. Falzone

Are you prioritizing what’s best for your children as you move forward with the divorce? Schedule a divorce mediation session with the Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone. We’ve worked with Bay Area families for over 30 years to create child custody schedules that successfully supported everyone’s well-being. Contact us to schedule your child custody mediation consultation.