Upon a separation or divorce, parents must decide how to arrange parenting time. The nature of this decision depends on the co-parenting relationship, which can also change as time goes on. A key consideration for parents and the court is the best interests of the child, which can differ based on the specific circumstances at hand. For instance, the children’s ages can impact which parenting schedule may be best or if a set schedule is necessary at all. Regardless, it can be helpful for parents to consider different types of parenting schedules and adapt them to suit the specific needs of their children and their circumstances.
This blog post will provide an overview of some common types of parenting schedules to provide ideas for how to move forward with co-parenting. These examples will provide important highlights for parties contemplating co-parenting and additional insight into what factors may be considered based on the ages of their children and other best interest factors that a court may consider if a determination needs to be made by a judge.
There are several options for parenting schedules available to parties with shared parenting.
For a weekday/weekend split, a child may spend time with one parent during the weekday, with exchanges occurring on Friday evening. The other parent would spend time with the child from Friday evening to Monday morning to drop the child off at school.
This can be a helpful schedule for children who attend school. This is a form of shared parenting in which the time split between the parents is approximately 60/40.
This type of schedule would divide the parents’ time 50/50. During the first week, one parent would spend time with the child for 3 days a week. In the following week, that parent would have the child in their care for 4 days a week. The other parent would have the child for the remaining time.
For example, week one may involve the child spending time with one parent from Monday to Wednesday and the other from Thursday to Sunday. Then, the following week, the child would return to the first parent’s care from Monday to Thursday and would be with the other parent from Friday to Sunday.
If the children are very young, it may be better to have more frequent exchanges so that the child is not separated from a parent for a long period of time.
As the name suggests, the parents would exchange the child every 2, 2, 5, and 5 days. For example, one parent would have the child from Monday to Tuesday and with the other parent on Wednesday and Thursday. The child would return to the first parent’s care from Friday to Tuesday, and the other parent would have the child from Wednesday to Sunday.
This arrangement allows each parent to spend weekends with the child.
For a week on/week off schedule, the child would alternate spending one week with each parent. For example, one parent would have the child from Monday to Monday morning the next week, dropping them off at school. The other parent would pick up the child Monday after school and drop off the child at school the following week.
This schedule may work better for older children as they would spend substantial time away from one parent. This schedule may be better for situations where the parents do not live close together or in cases where limited exchanges are beneficial.
If younger children are involved, having the child spend an evening or two with the other parent during the week may also be helpful.
The two-week on/off schedule is an extension of the week on/week off schedule described above. Instead of spending one week with a parent, the child would spend two weeks with the parent until the exchange occurs. Like the week on/week off schedule, it may be beneficial to have this schedule for older children and to limit exchanges if the travel distance between the parties is far or to limit disruptions if the child’s schedule is very busy.
Parenting schedules may also be based on circumstances where one parent has primary care of the child. These types of schedules may arise in cases where:
- the parties do not live close to each other,
- one parent has a history of being the primary caregiver to the child, or
- the child may not be used to spending extended periods of time with the other parent.
For the alternating weekend schedule, the child spends every other weekend with the other parent. For example, the child would spend Monday to Friday with the primary parent, then Friday to Monday morning with the other parent. The primary parent would then have the child from Monday to Sunday of the following week (week 2).
This may be a helpful arrangement where the parties live a considerable distance from each other, as it will limit the frequency of exchanges.
Variations of this schedule can include when the other parent spends 3 out of every 4 weekends with the child, or the other parent has an evening or overnight with the child in the weeks without weekend parenting time.
In some cases, it may be appropriate for one parent only to spend the day with the child. For instance, for infants, this may be necessary to facilitate breastfeeding while maintaining frequent contact of the child with both parents.
Regardless of the schedule, holidays and vacation time are often important components which should be discussed as they may create exceptions to the regular schedule.
It is common for parents to alternate holidays each year or alternate days of a holiday within the same year. Parties also often incorporate exceptions where the child is with the mother for Mother’s Day and the father for Father’s Day, regardless of which parent has parenting time for those days. The parties may also want to consider how to divide time with the child during their school breaks.
Overall, when determining the parenting schedule, it is important to consider the best interests of the child, given their specific needs, well-being, age, and more. In some scenarios, it may be best to adopt a flexible schedule that changes to fit the child’s needs, given their extracurricular activities and their own views.
The experienced family lawyers at Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP provide clients with trusted legal advice and tailored solutions to meet their unique family circumstances. When parents separate, it is generally in the children’s best interest to foster relationships with both parents, regardless of whether the parents have shared parenting or one parent has primary care of the child. Ultimately, parenting schedules must be in the best interests of the child, and many factors must be considered when determining what parenting schedule will best suit your family.
DBB Law is located in the heart of downtown Calgary and is recognized as a leading Calgary firm providing comprehensive legal services across several areas, including commercial and residential real estate transactions, estate planning and administration, and civil litigation. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our family law team, call us at 403-2665-7777 or contact us online.