During a divorce, different expectations, wants, and needs become glaringly obvious – fast. Figuring out realistic custody schedules is high on the list of stress-inducing events in a divorce. Nonetheless, it has to be done. Determining the best custody schedule for your family can help you and your co-parent care for your most important shared interest – your children – while (ideally) mitigating tension as much as possible.
What are Custody Schedules?
There are two types of custody you’ll need to be familiar with: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody pertains to making important decisions for your children (such as medical care and education.) Physical custody refers to where and with whom your children will live.
Co-parents may share both legal and physical custody of their children, or one parent may have legal custody and physical custody, or a combination. Your custody schedule will delve into the details of how your day-to-day life will look, like a roadmap to ensure that parents and children know what to anticipate. The schedule should indicate where and when children will spend time with each parent. Above all it must fit your children’s needs.
Custody Schedules in Action
If you and your co-parent have joint physical custody, you each will be spending significant time with and caring for your children. That said, joint custody schedules can look quite different in action, depending on your individual family dynamics and needs.
With a 50-50 split schedule, parents will divide their time with the children as equally as possible. This schedule might have parents trade off week by week with their children in an A/B schedule, where parent A takes one week with the children, and parent B gets the following week. If spending a week without seeing both parents is too long. Having a schedule with more exchanges, such as the 3-4-4-3 schedule, may be a more feasible option.
For some families, 50-50 custody schedules involving frequent transfers won’t be the best option. Co-parents who live a significant distance away from one another, who have complicated work schedules, or who need to reduce interactions with each other may need to consider a schedule with fewer exchanges – for instance, the 5-2 schedule, where the children will spend five days with parent A, two with parent B, and then repeat. This schedule ends up translating to a 70-30 division of custodial time.
Considering Third Party Time, Lifestyle, and Logistics
Considering how much time your children will spend with third parties – such as time spent at school, at extracurricular activities, or with family members and friends – will help you to determine if your custody schedule is balanced. Getting a clear picture of the time your children spent away from both you and your co-parent can help to reduce the potential for friction when figuring out how much quality time each of you gets to spend with the kids. Recognizing and accounting for third party time can help parents to come to an agreement with a seemingly uneven schedule.
Your children’s ages and developmental needs are another factor to consider when creating your custody schedule – for example, a newborn baby will demand a different routine than a preteen will, and custody schedules should reflect this to ensure that your children thrive at each stage of their lives.
North Carolina legislation explains that custody must “promote the interest and welfare of the child.” (NCLEG statute 50-13.2(a)). It really is all about doing what is best for your child, and a true 50-50 division week by week or a long weekend schedule may not be what works best for your family.
Custody Scheduling Apps: All the Help You Can Get, Right at Your Fingertips
We use apps to access our bank information, socialize, track fitness goals, and manage much of our lives. Custody scheduling apps can help to ease an inherently stressful situation and your co-parenting experience by tracking time spent with your children, maintaining a secure record of communications, and providing a means to safely and quickly share important information about your children with your co-parent.
For instance, WeParent allows you to track time spent with your children according to your parenting schedule with a variety of custody scheduling options. The app provides secure messaging, event calendaring, and the ability to upload important documents and files for easy exchange. Similarly, OurFamilyWizard helps co-parents to create their parenting schedule, securely store important information such as immunization records, and maintain communication archives. The app even has the option to enable its ToneMeter tool to alert you to pause and reconsider before sending aggressive or inflammatory messages.
Bottom Line: Custody Schedules are a Long Game.
Parenting is never easy. Co-parenting after a divorce can be downright contentious and stressful for some people. Careful planning to find a custody schedule that best meets your family’s needs can help to make the transition as peaceful as possible.
Sharing time with your children may be the most emotionally exhausting and friction-filled aspect of life following a divorce. Curating a custody schedule that will best fit your child’s needs, your needs, and the needs of your co-parent is critically important to finding your new family rhythm.
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