Too often, custody and visitation schedules can become a contentious issue between divorcing parents. Any compromise can feel like giving up your children or your role as a parent. Let these five questions be your guide in making a sensible, practical, and beneficial parenting arrangement for all involved.
1. What was the parenting arrangement before the divorce?
Think carefully about how much time each parent spent with the children before the word “divorce” entered the conversation. Take, for example, a family where one spouse is a “stay at home” parent and the other parent works 70+ hours a week at a high-pressure job. The arrangement might have already been that the working parent mostly got to see their children on weekends. If there is no reason to shift the balance of child-rearing responsibilities, discuss with your spouse how you can keep them more or less the same after your divorce.
2. Where is each of the parents living relative to the school?
One reason to shift the balance of child-rearing responsibilities is that one parent is moving away from where the child is going to school. It’s important to consider the stress of changing schools against the stress of changing the parenting schedule.
3. Does either of you anticipate a change in your work schedule?
Is one or both of you anticipating a change of career or work schedule? If so, this may warrant a discussion.
4. What are the limiting factors in the child’s schedule?
Custody agreements stipulate how often, for how long, and when one parent may take the children on vacation. What are the practical limitations? Do the children have school or extra-curricular schedules which limit the amount of time they can spend away from home? If so, it’s probably most equitable to split that time equally between the parents.
5. What dates and times are most important to each parent?
Make a list of those important events and occasions that are most important to you. Rank them. Ask yourself if any of them can be times when you and your spouse can both be with the children. If your spouse ranks July 4th as seventh on their list, and it’s first on yours, discuss that. If Thanksgiving isn’t your thing and your spouse really cares about it, let them have it. You can use it to buy goodwill for those things which are more important to you.