Child Custody Schedule Tips

How important is your child custody schedule? Most divorced parents understand that the custody schedule for their children is very important. This is the part of the custody agreement that affects you on a daily basis. You'll be making plans and scheduling your life around this schedule until your children are adults because the child custody schedule determines when and how often you will spend time with your child. To help you make a custody schedule that works, here is some information about what to include and how to determine what is best for your child.

What Does a Successful Custody Schedule Include?

In order for your custody schedule to be effective, it needs to be complete. This means that you make a child custody calendar that shows where your child is every day of the year. To do this, your custody schedule should contain the following parts.

  • A residential or school schedule: this is the everyday schedule of where your child spends time. This is also called the repeating cycle of custody and visitation.
  • A holiday schedule: this schedule shows which parent the child will be with on the holidays.
  • Vacation or school break schedule: sometimes the everyday schedule changes when the child is on school break or vacation and a separate everyday schedule is needed. Parents are also able to schedule vacation time with the child.
  • Extra or special events: these are the one-time changes to the custody schedule because of extra or special events that arise.
  • Custody schedule provisions: this is extra information that the parents agree on that helps the custody schedule run smoothly.

When parents think through all of these aspects of the schedule, they should be able to come up with something that works for everyone involved.

Residential (or school) schedule:

The first decision to make for the residential schedule is where your child will live. Depending on the needs of your child, you can choose to make a schedule where the child spends significant time with both parents (a joint custody schedule – 50/50) or a schedule where the child has a home base with one parent and visits the other parent (a sole custody schedule).

Some common joint custody schedule examples include:

  • Parents alternating weeks when the child lives with them.
  • A 2/2/5/5 schedule where the child lives with one parent for two days, with the other parent for two days, with the first parent for five days and then with the other parent for five days.
  • A 3/3/4/4 schedule is the same as above except the parents rotate three and four days.
  • The child spending weekends and several evenings with one parent and the rest of the time with the other parent.
  • A schedule where the child lives primarily with one parent during the school year and then lives primarily with the other parent during school breaks.

Some common sole custody schedule examples include:

  • The child visiting the non-residential parent every weekend.
  • The child visiting the non-residential parent every other weekend, or some alternating weekend schedule.
  • A weekend visitation schedule with evening or overnight visits during the week.
  • A good place to start when making this schedule is to outline the parenting time for two to four weeks. Then, you just repeat your two to four week cycle throughout the year. If you have an unusual schedule, where the time doesn't consistently repeat, then you may need to make the schedule a month at a time or in shorter increments.

    How do I make my holiday schedule?

    To make your holiday schedule, you:

  • Make a list of all of the holidays you want to include in your custody schedule. You can include national, school, and religious holidays in your schedule.
  • Decide how long the holiday time will last. For example, is Thanksgiving just the day or the whole weekend?
  • Decide where your child will be during each holiday. You can give entire holidays to one parent and alternate the holidays or you can have the child spend time with both parents on holidays. Each parent should have about equal holiday time during the year.
  • Write down the holiday time on your custody schedule and determine how you will rotate the holidays every year, or if you will make a new holiday schedule every year.
  • The holiday schedule takes precedence over the residential schedule because it shows where the child will spend holidays and special occasions. This means that if a parent usually has the child for a weekend, but the weekend is a holiday and the other parent is scheduled for it, the parent scheduled for holiday time has the child.

    As you make your holiday schedule, you should think about current holiday traditions that your child enjoys. While you may not be able to keep everything the same, your child will take great comfort knowing that certain traditions and celebrations will be consistent.

    Should I have a vacation or school break schedule?

    If during the school year your child lives primarily with one parent and visits the other parent, you may want to change the residential schedule during summer and other school breaks to allow the other parent more time with the children.

    Can I schedule in time when I take my child on vacation?

    You can schedule specific dates for each parent to take the child on vacation, or you can have unspecified vacations. Unspecified vacations are when each parent is allowed to take the children for so many days during the year when they give notice to the other parent.

    The bottom line is that because of having a child together you will always be tied to your ex-spouse. You can decide to get along or decide to make it a fight at every meeting. Working out a reasonable schedule with your child will make everyone’s life easier.

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