By Alan Freed
Parents going through a divorce are entering a new world of raising their children in two homes and they want to know what to expect. How often will their children go back and forth between Mom’s house and Dad’s house? Does every family end up with the same schedule? The answers to these questions may surprise you.
In the 30 years I’ve dealt with divorce, I’ve seen huge changes in how judges deal with the issue of parenting. In the early 80’s, a common schedule would have the children in Dad’s care on alternating weekends and, perhaps, one evening per week, but they would be spending every school night, including Sunday, at Mom’s house.
Today, many judges begin with the assumption that the children should spend equal amounts of time with both parents. This thinking may result in a schedule that has the children spending Monday and Tuesday with one parent, Wednesday and Thursday with the other, and then alternating the weekends. With older children, a schedule of one week with Mom followed by one week with Dad may make more sense. On the other hand younger children may benefit from more frequent changes from Mom’s house to Dad’s house so that they never go more than two or three days without seeing a parent.
Of course, not every family will use a schedule that shares time equally between the parents. Often one parent is not working and the children can benefit from being in that parent’s care more frequently. Sometimes one parent has been the primary caretaker and both parents agree (or a judge believes) that this arrangement should continue. When parents travel frequently or have irregular work schedules, the lawyers and the parents need to be more creative in fashioning a workable arrangement.
The takeaway from all of this: one size definitely does not fit all. Give some serious thought to what will work for your family. Recognize that the schedule may need to change as the children get older and their needs evolve. Get some advice from a child psychologist about children’s developmental requirements. Don’t assume that a schedule that works for your neighbor or your best friend is the right one for your family.
An experienced family law attorney can help you come up with a plan that will keep your children well cared for and happy.