Divorce is hard. Going through a divorce with children is even harder, which is why it is important to have a custody schedule that is suitable for your needs and the needs of your children.
You might be wondering, what is a custody schedule? Custody schedules pertain to physical custody, which is where a child lives and who that child lives with. A custody plan simply details when your child will be with each parent. They are usually part of a court order, so it is imperative that both parents follow the custody plan unless there is an agreement to do otherwise. A custody plan may be necessary to ensure that both parents are seeing the child, and each parent’s parenting time with the child remains protected.
Custody plans can be structured in a variety of ways. It is important to consider numerous factors when crafting a custody plan including parent work schedules, each child’s schedule, school breaks, extracurricular activities, or other obligations. Below is a summary of the most common custody schedules ordered in California courts.
A week on/week off schedule alternates child custody between parents every other week. For example, the children will spend an entire week with one parent and then will spend the entire following week with the other parent.
This schedule may be beneficial for older children because it allows them to go about their weekly schedule and extracurricular activities relatively undisturbed. It is also a straightforward schedule, which is easily understood by children and can be beneficial in providing a sense of stability during their parents’ divorce.
Despite the stability that a week on/week off parenting schedule can offer, there are common drawbacks that parents should consider before implementing this custody schedule. For example, younger children often struggle with going an entire week without seeing one of their parents. A way to combat this drawback is to arrange for a midweek dinner visit with the other parent or ensure that the children have nightly phone or video calls with the other parent. This allows the children to still feel connected with the other parent while also giving the other parent the opportunity to be updated on the children’s lives while they are not in his or her care.
Another common drawback of a week on/week off custody schedule is that it can be difficult for a parent to obtain childcare only for alternating weeks. If parents live near each other, and have an amicable co-parenting relationship, then both parents can coordinate to use the same childcare provider.
Under a 2-2-5 parenting plan, Parent “A” has the children for two days, then Parent “B” has the children for 2 days, and then Parent “A” has the children for 5 days. Then, the schedule continues with Parent “B” for 2 days, Parent “A” or 2 days, and Parent “B” for 5 days.
This plan can be great because it provides each parent with weekday parenting time and the opportunity to spend every other weekend with their child.
A downside of a 2-2-5 custody schedule is that exchanges are frequent which can be difficult for both parents and children to keep track of. Frequent exchanges can also be difficult if the parents do not live near each other and will require children to be in a car for a significant period of time for each exchange. Because of the frequent exchanges, a 2-2-5 schedule can also be difficult for parents that do not have an amicable co-parenting relationship since the parents will be required to interact with each other often.
Another drawback of a 2-2-5 schedule is that children may be expected to adjust to two different routines depending on which parent has custody. Additionally, children often do not feel that they have a “home base” and that they live out of a suitcase. To help children feel more comfortable, it is recommended that both parents have designated items for each child such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and clothes so the children do not feel as if they must consistently keep track of these items. Both parents may also stock their homes with the children’s favorite items, so they feel equally comfortable and familiar regardless of which parent is caring for the children.
Under a 2-2-3 parent plan, Parent “A” has the child for 2 days, then Parent “B” has the child for 2 days, then Parent “A” has the child for 3 days. Then, the schedule continues with Parent “B” for 2 days. This schedule resets weekly.
The custody arrangement can be great for young children. The children are seeing both parents frequently, which is comforting for young children of parents going through a divorce.
Like a 2-2-5 plan, a downside of a 2-2-3 parenting schedule is that this schedule requires frequent exchanges which can be confusing and require continuous communication between both parents, which can be difficult for parents who not able to interact amicably.
Because of the frequent exchanges, a 2-2-3 schedule can be hard to implement for older children that are busy with extracurricular activities or difficult homework assignments. To avoid the added difficulty, some parents opt to practice a 2-2-3 schedule when their children are young and transition to a week on/week off schedule when their children become older.
Under a 2-2-5-5 parenting plan, Parent “A” has the children for two days, then Parent “B” has the children for 2 days, then Parent “A” has the children for 5 days, and finally Parent “B” has the child for 5 days. The entire duration takes two weeks to complete, and then repeats. This schedule is also customizable, and parents can determine the best configuration depending on the family’s needs.
This schedule is often implemented because it allows both parents to have equal and ample time with their children while not requiring either parent to go an entire week without seeing their children.
Once more, although a 2-2-5-5 schedule allows parents to see their children often, a drawback of this schedule is that frequent exchanges are required. However, if the parents can co-parent effectively, then it will likely be easier to communicate often and facilitate frequent exchanges.
Another drawback of a 2-2-5-5 schedule, like a 2-2-5 schedule, is that the children may have difficulty adapting to each parent’s home since exchanges are so frequent. As previously mentioned, it is suggested that both parents stock their homes with the children’s favorite items so the children will feel equally comfortable in both homes.
Sometimes, one parent does not reside close enough to make frequent custody changes a feasible option. An extended holiday schedule allows the child to travel and stay with the other parent for longer durations of time, less frequently. For example, a child might primarily reside with one parent but during winter and summer vacation the child travels and resides with the other parent.
This schedule is beneficial for children that have a strict school schedule because it allows them to see both parents without interfering with their education. This schedule may also work best when co-parents live far apart.
One drawback of an extended holiday custody schedule is that children spend a significant amount of time without seeing the other parent. Because of this, it may take the children more time to adjust anytime they change homes since they need to adjust to a new routine and a new household that they have not been to in a while. A way to minimize the adjustment period is for both parents to work together and try to provide similar routines in each of their households. It is also important that the children can regularly video/phone call the non-custodial parent.
Another downside of an extended holiday schedule is that it prevents the children from being able to partake in winter or summer activities with their friends, especially if the other parent lives in a different state. This can cause the children to feel left out and disconnected from their community. Parents can work to mitigate this issue by having the out-of-state parent visit in the children’s community for a week during summer and winter so that the children can spend time with the other parent while also getting the opportunity to partake in activities within their community before spending the remainder of the school break in the other parent’s state of residence.
Oftentimes, it can be difficult to figure out what parenting schedule is in your children’s best that is also best logistically for you and your co-parent. A skilled California family law attorney can further explain the pros and cons of each common custody plan and work with you to help draft a custody plan specifically tailored to you and your children’s needs. Contact Cage & Miles, LLP to work with one of our experienced attorneys to get started on your custody plan today.