Negotiating a parenting schedule can be one of the most stressful parts of your divorce. It can be hard to accept that you will not be able to see your child whenever you want once you separate. Here are some of our tips to help you come up with the best parenting scheduling plan:
1. Speak to a child psychologist or social worker: It can be helpful to seek input from an experienced mental health professional when it comes to building a parenting schedule. An expert can suggest schedules that are developmentally appropriate based on the ages and specific needs of your children. If your divorce is amicable, a mental health professional may be willing to serve as a mediator to help you and your partner agree upon a schedule.
2. In high conflict cases, look for ways to limit interactions with your partner: Even the youngest children pick up on parental conflict. If you and your spouse cannot get along, your children will notice and negative interactions will cause them unnecessary stress. Consider parenting schedules that include exchanges at school, camp or activities so that the two of you do not need to be present at the same time. It may be impossible to eliminate all exchanges between you and your spouse but you can minimize direct contact in front of your children.
3. There is no “one size fits all” schedule: Just because a parenting schedule works for another family that you know, that does not mean it will work for you. While certain norms such as alternate weekends are followed in most custody schedules, there are many options available. Several years ago some judges, mental health professionals and lawyers in Arizona put together a guide to help with planning parenting time. You should discuss options with your lawyer but this guide can provide parenting schedule ideas that you may not have considered that may work for your family.
4. Try to agree upon a parenting schedule instead of litigating: You and your spouse know your children best. Once you bring your custody dispute to court, you will be placing the decision in the hands of a stranger. Your children may end up with an appointed lawyer and the Judge might order a forensic evaluation of your family. Not only will this increase your legal fees exponentially, it also will be extraordinarily stressful. You may end up with a schedule that neither you nor your spouse wanted.
5. The schedule does not need to be set in stone: As your children age, their needs may change. If you separate when your children are very young, it may be appropriate to have frequent contact with both parents, split weekends or limited overnights with the non-custodial parent. But a few years down the road your children may be ready for longer blocks of time with each parent. Your needs and interests may change as well. Over time you might want more child-free time. Consider leaving an opening in your agreement to revisit the parenting schedule after a certain amount of time or include changes that will be made once your children reach certain ages.
The lawyers at Greenblatt Law have extensive experience in custody cases. If you need help figuring out the right parenting schedule for your family, get in touch.