Variations of Typical Custody Schedules
One size does not fit all.
Remember, that one of the main benefits of mediation is the ability to design and modify a custodial time share that works best for your child. This is not intuitive and both parents need to understand that flexibility in this design is the key. The typical custody schedules mentioned in the last entry are nice starting places, that the parents can adjust as appropriate.
Coach your child’s sports team:
You may have a custody arrangement that designates one evening a week, but most sports teams have two practices a week. Coaching your child’s team is an ideal way to spend some more time with the child by designing the schedule to encompass both of the practice days for just the season You coach your child’s team and then take him to dinner after practice. This can add hours every week and facilitate bonding with the child, because remember it is not the amount of time, but how you spend it.
Make it a long weekend:
When we talk of a long weekend, we add an overnight either Thursday night or Sunday night to extend the weekend. This is often nice because it allows a weekend trip without having to get home early for the exchange. It also prevents Sunday from being broken up by the exchange.
Spend your time doing homework? We all know the joy we get by helping our child with homework, but doing homework with your child is one of those activities that we are all obligated to engage in. Depending on how we spend our time, it can be an opportunity for the child to increase his respect for you and allow you to bond with your child. If your schedule permits, you may wish split the responsibility for after school care and homework with the other parent with an exchange either after or before dinner. Combine this with a sports practice and you have the makings of significant quality time twice a week devoid of video games and other distractions.
Add a midweek visit to the seven day span:
If seven days is too long then give the other parent one or two evening during your week. So for instance it is mom’s week, but dad has visits for a few hours on Tuesday evening, and vice-versa the next week. This can reduce the amount of time that each parent is away from the child while still allowing a week on week off equal time share. This can help mitigate some of the significance of a week on week off schedule.
Fly by the seat of your pants:
There is sometimes a tendency for parents to just say “I don’t want a set schedule. We get along and we will simply work it out”. Great! Although this is sometimes very successful, the pitfalls are out there. Let’s be honest, you are separating for a reason and so everything may not always be easy. Having a set schedule that you then agree to deviate from on an ongoing basis is a way to solve this problem. If there is ever a time that you and the other parent are having a disagreement about something, you can always revert back to the original time share until tensions subside.
I am not sure I have ever had a case where tensions have not arisen at one time or another. Often this comes from one parent finding a significant other who starts to interact with the child and then there is the new spouse. These are emotional events, as much as we want to say the other parent should move on, their power over the parents interaction can not be underestimated. We are all human.
Sometimes we all need time-outs, and the set schedule in the agreement can provide this time-out until cooler heads can prevail and the respect for your child’s needs can resurface.
Although not ideal, there is a kernel of litigation in every mediation. One parent is thinking that “If I give up time to the other parent, they may use it in court at a later time in an effort to make a temporary arrangement a permanent one.” This is true, and choices to allow more time can have an impact later in court. However, remember the whole reasons that you are in mediation is that you both understand that you don’t want the court making orders that control your life, and you both accepted that you will design what is in your child’s best interest. This may diverge at one point and you may need an expert or the court to assist you in this matter, but when it comes down to it, you are doing this for your child. If it makes sense for one parent to have extra time for the child’s good – then it makes sense for the parent to have extra time, regardless of what you want. And this is worth repeating: If it makes sense for one parent to have less time for the child’s good – then it makes sense for the parent to have less time, regardless of what you want.
Karl Ruben says
Thanks, Matthew for such article. Nice work.