When a child’s parents separate, decisions must be made about legal custody (decision making) and the child’s schedule. Both must be decided “in the best interest of the child,” whether agreed between the parents or decided by a judge. However, parents do themselves a disservice if they assume there are only a finite number of options for the custody schedules of their children.
Most people believe that the “default” schedule is for the mother to have primary physical custody and the father have visitation every other weekend. Based on the schedules and the responsibilities of the parents, sometimes this schedule is best for the child. Many judges still order it. But if there is another schedule that gives both parents quality, meaningful time with the children, shouldn’t you consider it? Do not assume that the other parent or the judge will think of unique custody arrangements. It is your job to put forward the options. Here are a few things to think about when brainstorming more “creative” custody schedules:
Parents’ Employment: Write out each parent’s work schedule and see where the gaps are. Is there a time when one parent is not working and could be spending time with the child? Does a parent have an ability to modify his or her schedule? Does one parent work weekends or nights that allow for days off when the other parent is working? Where do the parents work in relation to daycare, school, or the other parent’s house which might facilitate transfers of the child?
School/Daycare: When and where is the child’s school or daycare? When can each parent pick up the child, and would transfers at the school or daycare be more convenient and less stressful than transfers at a parent’s home? Where is the child catching the school bus, and is there another arrangement that would still get the child to school on time?
Sleep Schedules: When is the child’s bedtime? If the child is with a parent after work or school, how much waking time are they spending together? Would the child be better off staying overnight to gain more time with one parent and create a new routine? Would an earlier transfer time help the child settle down for bed?
Transitioning – the “Back-and-Forth”: Each child is unique, and some handle going back and forth between houses better than others. Transition can be difficult even for the most resilient children. Does the child understand the schedule, or is it causing confusion? It may take some trial and error to identify issues.
Get Ideas from Friends or Online: Remember that all families are different and custody arrangements require customization. With that in mind, talk to friends or coworkers about their child’s custody schedule. Look online at websites such as CustodyXchange.com for ideas. Don’t be afraid to modify for your child’s unique circumstances.
The main focus for determining a custody schedule is determining what is best for the child. Typically that means spending meaningful time with both parents, so creating a schedule that allows both parents to maximize their available time with the child is key. Brainstorming is essential to making a creative and effective schedule for your child.
Call an attorney at Stiles Ewing Powers PC. We approach each client’s custody situation with creative, out-of-the box solutions. We work as a team to resolve legal issues through mediation, Collaborative Law, and litigation when necessary.