Skip to main content

Parenting Is Not About Percentages

By Alan E. Freed

I’ve been working with couples going through divorce and separation, both as an attorney and as a mediator, for over 40 years. In those four decades, I’ve witnessed a sea change in parenting arrangements.

When I started practicing, a typical parenting plan might say, “Full [or primary] custody to Mother with reasonable visitation to Father as the parties agree.” Or it might set out a plan in which the kids stayed with Mom during the week, had one dinner or overnight with Dad on Wednesday, and then alternated staying with the parents on weekends, returning to Mom’s house on Sunday evening.

My how things have changed.

In its most recent session, the Missouri legislature passed a law making equal time with both parents “presumptive,” meaning if a case goes to trial, the judge must assume that spending the same amount of time with each parent is best for the children, and it’s up to the lawyers to convince a judge to craft a plan with unequal time. 

As a result, many of the parents who come to my office begin by saying, “I’m entitled to 50/50.” While that might be an accurate statement of the law, it doesn’t necessarily mean an equal time-sharing plan is the best arrangement for that family.

Here’s where I prefer to start the conversation about a parenting schedule: Every family is different

Here are some of the differences parents need to consider:

  • Children of different ages have different developmental needs. Very young children may suffer if they are separated from a parent for an extended period. Older kids can tolerate longer separations.
  • Parents’ work and travel schedules may impact their availability for parenting duties.
  • Some parents are more skilled at aspects of parenting than others.
  • Children with developmental or mental health issues must be accommodated, even if that means altering the parenting schedule to meet their needs.
  • The distance between parents’ homes will have an impact on how frequently the children can be transferred back and forth.

This is by no means a complete list. That’s why I always encourage my clients to think about parenting from the perspective of the children’s needs, rather than from their own “entitlement” to a certain percentage of the children’s time. Part of what they must consider is whether once they’ve achieved their “50/50” goal, they will have the parenting tools and the availability to perform functions they may never have taken on during their marriage. 

Parenting is a long-term commitment. Parenting schedules need to be tailored to the specific needs of a family, to create the best possible path for the children’s success in life.

The family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can help you determine what parenting plan will best serve your children’s needs.


I need a consultation