One of the things I like best about divorce mediation and collaborative family law is the fact that parents get to design parenting plans that are meaningful specifically for their family. For instance, I’ve worked with couples that have designed their agreement around their son’s soccer game travel schedule, another around the daughter’s need to be in her charter school 6 days a week.
Here are a few schedules that might help you gain some ideas when you are creating your plan:
Individual time. Make time for parents to spend special time with each child: I worked with a couple who had 2 kids – the mother took one son on Wednesday evenings, while the father took the other son. Then they swapped the following week. This ensured that they each could check in with the kids individually, while the kids were together the other six nights of the week.
Different plans for kids of different ages: Experts suggest that younger children need to see their parents more often, so it might be appropriate to switch more often. Older children can go for longer stretches of time and might enjoy fewer transitions.
Two weekends. Preschool children can have 2 weekends a week, if their parents’ schedules allow it, and might spend 2 full weekdays with one parent, and the weekend days with the other. On the other hand, it might be reassuring for younger children to be with older siblings all of the time.
Nesting is an option where the children stay in one home all of the time, and the parents move back and forth. One advantage of this is that the children have the stability of one home, one room, etc. However, it requires a lot of commitment and good communication on the parents’ part.
Staying Close. The parents may be able to work out a way to continue to live near each other, so that they each have their own homes but the children don’t have to travel very far. This allows the children to be more relaxed about retrieving forgotten items from the parent who is not “on duty,” and allows the parents to be more flexible in case they need to make changes to the schedule.
First Right of Refusal. You might build in that if either parent has a work commitment that means they can’t be with the child, the other parent has the first opportunity to care for the child during that time. (You have to be careful to also build it in so that the child doesn’t know if the accommodating parent cannot take up the opportunity.)
Split custody. This is where one child lives primarily with one parent and another child lives primarily with the other parent. There might be special circumstances in which this is the best option, particularly if the children see each other regularly – in school, for instance.
Each of these scenarios requires a lot of good communication between the parents. Have you used a creative option that has worked? If so, I would love to hear from you!