In most cases, when a couple gets divorced it is beneficial for the children involved to spend time with each parent, Custody agreements, also called parenting plans combine two different elements: Decision Making and Time Sharing, Decision making, which has traditionally been referred to as “legal custody” involves making important decisions that could have a major impact on their life. Examples would include where they go to school or church or whether or not they should be allowed to try out for the football team. Time Sharing, is also known as physical custody, and in most cases either the parents themselves or the judge will come to an agreement regarding when children should spend time with each parent. In many cases, the exact schedule may need to be tweaked or altered, but a general base of recommended schedules offer families a good place to start.
For most families where both parents live relatively close to one another, one of these schedules is implemented to start.
- Alternating weekends with non-custodial parent – This arrangement may be good for children who are not close to the noncustodial parent, and who may experience anxiety if they are separated from the custodial parent for too long. In these situation, the noncustodial parent may reserve the right to ask the court for more time once the child becomes more open to the option.
- Alternating Weekends with a midweek visit. This schedule gives a bit more time for the non-custodial parent and also gives the other parent a midweek break. It also gives non-custodial parents a chance to deal with more practical issues, such as homework. The midweek visit is normally kept to a couple hours before the kids return to their primary home
- Alternating extended weekend; Friday evening to Monday evening. An extended weekend offers a non-custodial parent more time with more days in a row. This is good for parents who like to stick with neutral exchanges. All pick ups and drop offs can be at school, and the kids can keep an abbreviated wardrobe at the non-custodial parents home to avoid heavy packing.
- Alternating extended weekend with a midweek visit – This plan gives families a chance to have several days together, but also gives them the chance to regroup and catch up before too many days have gone by.
- Alternating weekend with a midweek overnight stay – This can work well for children who are equally comfortable with both parents.
- Alternating extended weekends midweek overnight stay – This plan actually borders on equal time between the custodial and non-custodial parents
- 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends, which may be extended and may include a midweek visit or an overnight stay – Whether the weekend is extended or not, this schedule can be a little easier to keep track of, especially when making plans several months in advance. There’s less chance of counting wrong and getting mixed up as to whether it is the right weekend or not.
Holiday schedules depend a lot on whether both parents live close to one another or not, as well as their personal holiday tradition. Some work out a schedule where both parents spend time with kids on the holiday every year, but one gets mornings/early afternoon, and the other gets mid afternoon to evening. In some cases, an individual parent will have full reign over the day, but they will only get this every other year.
Input From the Kids
The older the kids are, the more likely they are to have a life of their own that has very little to do with their parents. For example, if they get together for a special time with friends or are involved in an extra-curricular activity every Wednesday, they may begin to resist the idea of having their own plans spoiled just to keep a schedule. It is important that parents take the time to take a child’s schedule into consideration, but it is also important to stress the importance of spending time with both parents. They should know that their opinion is heard, but they should also know that they will not be allowed to make excuses in order to disrupt the custody plan.
Another way to keep parent/child relationships strong is to encourage children to interact with their other parent if they want to . This could include calling them, sending them an email, or even communicating online by chatting or using video communication such as Skype.
Since the needs of kids change as they get older, as do the needs of the parents, it is not unusual for one or both parents to ask for revisions in their custody agreements. At the Law Office of Steven L. Fritsch, we handle a variety of family law cases, and have worked with many families to find the custody agreement that works the best for them. If you feel your custody agreement could use a little tweaking, contact us to discuss what your options might be and what steps you may want to take.