Joint custody can be a difficult endeavour, but when done right, a proper joint custody schedule can help your children flourish instead of suffer.
Custody can be physical, legal, or both. When parents share joint legal custody, they both have a say in major decisions regarding the child’s life, such as education, religious upbringing, and medical care. When parents have joint physical custody, their children spend time living in each of their homes, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be an exact 50/50 split.
There’s no “correct” way to do joint custody, but we’ll share some example joint custody schedules that work well for many parents.
If you find it difficult to communicate and work with your spouse, you can also develop a joint custody schedule through divorce mediation, with the help of a mediator who is trained to resolve conflicts and facilitate a divorce settlement.
These six joint custody schedules provide for almost equal time for the kids with both parents. You can tweak and adjust the schedules to meet your family’s unique needs.
With this plan, the children live at one parent’s house one week, then switch over to the other parent’s house the next week. Many families choose to make the transition on Fridays or over the weekend, but you can choose whatever day of the week works best for you.
As with most joint physical custody schedules, this one requires that your children have fully functional bedrooms and living space in each of your homes.
Typically, this schedule works better for older children or children who can be away from one parent for an entire week. If you’re considering this schedule for your family, be sure to get your kids’ perspectives on this type of arrangement. You want to be sure that you select a schedule that works for your kids above anything else.
Alternating Weeks with Midweek Visit
Many families add a midweek evening visit to their alternating week’s schedule, so the children never go a full week without seeing either parent. The sample schedule shown here has that midweek visit taking place on Tuesdays, but you can choose whatever day works best for your family.
Although a midweek visit can be nice for both the parents and the kids in this schedule, it may be more difficult to maintain as the kids get into extracurricular activities like sports, music, dance, and so on. If you do decide to use this type of schedule, be sure that you don’t require your kids to miss their activities or skip study groups just to ensure a midweek visit.
Perhaps, if your kids have extracurricular activities, you could be the person shuttling them to their activities and then have dinner with them during your midweek visit. The key is that you think outside the box when formulating a schedule and create as little disruption in your kids’ lives as possible.
With this schedule, the children alternate residences one day a week, usually on Fridays, but they enjoy one midweek overnight with the other parent. The midweek overnight visit takes place on Tuesdays on the calendar shown here, but this option isn’t carved in stone if another night works better with your kids’ extracurricular and social schedules or your work schedules.
Once kids are in upper elementary school and beyond, it’s important to allow them to have a voice in developing the custody schedule.
For instance, allow them to decide if they want to do an overnight visit or just have dinner with the parent. Or, you can allow them to decide which day of the week is best for the midweek overnight.
It could be that they always have a math quiz on Wednesdays and they don’t want to move houses on Tuesday night, making Thursday a better option. The key is that you listen to their opinions and try to work with them. When you do, the transitions will go much more smoothly.
However, overnight visits may be particularly challenging when infants are involved. In fact, there is some research that suggests that frequent overnights are linked to attachment insecurity in infants, which could lead to adjustment problems at ages 3 and 5.3 Meanwhile, frequent overnights were not linked to adjustment problems at older ages.
So, as you decide on your custody schedule, be sure to consider the ages and needs of all your children. It could be that babies would adjust better if they were with a primary caregiver for all overnights, but had daytime visits with the secondary caregiver on a regular basis.
With this custody schedule, the children reside with Parent A for two days, then with Parent B for two days, then spend a long three-day weekend with Parent A.
The next week, the routine flips and the children reside with Parent B for two days, then Parent A for two days, before spending a long three-day weekend with Parent B. This allows the parents to have alternate weekends with the children and may be useful for parents with young children who cannot go long blocks of time without seeing one or both of their parents.
This schedule also may work best for parents who live close together, for easy handoffs, and for younger children who adapt well to change while needing to see each parent frequently.
Keep in mind, though, moving to the other parent’s home every few days can be disruptive for kids. To your kids, it might seem like it’s time to leave again as soon as they settle in.
In this plan, the children spend three days with Parent A, three days with Parent B, then four days with Parent A, followed by another four days with Parent B. The advantage is that the children are always at one residence on Sundays through Tuesdays, and at the other residence on Wednesdays through Fridays.
The only day that changes from week to week is Saturdays, giving a weekend day to each parent. The longer duration at each parent’s home might be a little less disruptive for kids.
Because the Saturdays that a parent has the kids change from month to month, you may want to consider using an electronic calendar or custody app to ensure everyone knows where the kids will be and who is responsible for pickups and drop-offs at any given time.
This routine is similar to the 3-3-4-4 schedule, but the children reside with Parent A for two days, then Parent B for two days, followed by five days with Parent A and five days with Parent B.
Like the 3-3-4-4 day rotation, this schedule allows the children to spend Sundays and Mondays in one residence, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the other. The only days that fluctuate from week to week are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Whatever custody schedule you choose, remember to give everyone in your family time to adjust before making changes.
Implementing your Joint Custody Schedule
Once you have agreed on a custody schedule, put the document into an official parenting plan. Most likely, this schedule will become part of your official custody agreement. Having an official parenting plan with a detailed joint custody schedule makes it easier for attorneys, mediators, and the judge to make sense of your goals as well as determine if your schedule is in the best interest of the children.
Consider revisiting the plan every year to make sure it continues to meet all of your needs. Above all, allow your children a voice in the planning and discussion if they’re old enough.
The family lawyers at Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group can help you with this process, even without the need for a judge. Contact us through our form or give us a call today to get started!