You’re getting ready to split up with the other parent. But you want your children at least half of the time. In an ideal world, you can work together with your ex to iron out a schedule that works for both of you. Having two quality parents equally involved and working well together is ideal for the children.
Joint physical custody divides the time with the children between the parents approximately equally. Although the court has wide discretion to order it under a number of circumstances, it usually works best when the parents are cooperative and communicate well with each other, there are fewer transitions between the parents’ homes during the week, and the parents live close enough to each other that the transitions between their homes aren’t disruptive to the children.
Whether you’re working on an agreement with the other party or preparing for a hearing at which the issue of parenting time will be addressed, it’s helpful to have an idea of what the courts prefer in setting shared parenting schedules.
Generally, the fewer transitions there are for the children during the week, the better. If you have a choice between blocking out chunks of time with each parent and fewer transitions and smaller parenting time frames and more transitions, the court prefers fewer transfers.
The reason for this is that theoretically, the more the children have to go back and forth between their parents homes, the more disruptive it is for them: more transitions means that communication between the parents is more likely to fall through the cracks and it’s harder to get the children into a good routine.
For example, a schedule that alternates days between the parents’ homes can be disruptive: Monday at mom’s, Tuesday at dad’s Wednesday at mom’s etc. On the other hand, if the child can remain at a parent’s home for at least a couple of days at a time, a judge is more likely to order it.
Here are some examples of joint physical custody schedules that our firm has had approved by the court.
Example 1, The 3-2-2 Schedule: This schedule essentially alternates the weekends between the parties and splits the weekdays in half. It’s one of the more popular shared parenting plans because it gives each party quality weekend time and minimizes transitions during the week.
-Week 1: Father has the child Fri - Sun, Mother has the child Mon & Tue, and Father has the child Wed & Thurs
-Week 2: Mother has the child Fri - Sun, Father has the child Mon & Tue, and Mother has the child Wed & Thurs.
Example 2, Alternating Weeks: This schedule has the parties keeping the child for the entire week at one time. There are fewer transitions, but each party doesn’t see the child for an entire week at a time.
-Week 1: Father has the child from Mon - Sun
-Week 2: Mother has the child from Mon - Sun
Example 3, 4-3 Schedule: This schedule has the parties alternating weeks with one week a parent having 4 days and the following week 3 and alternating going forward. This particular schedule works well if one parent works on weekends and the other doesn’t. But it can be customized to include different days with the same formula.
-Week 1: Father has the child from Mon - Thurs and Mother has the child from Fri - Sun
-Week 2: Father has the child from Mon - Wed and Mother has the child from Thurs - Sun.
These are just a few examples of schedules that we’ve had approved. However, the only limit to the number of ways that a schedule can be crafted is the parties’ imaginations and creativity. Of course, shared parenting schedules are much easier to implement with cooperation and flexibility between the parties.
Despite the judges’ general preference for fewer transitions on joint physical custody schedules, they will usually approve agreements made by the parties—unless there’s something about the schedule that’s clearly not in the child’s best interest.
However, if you’re not going into the courtroom with an agreement, but instead you’re trying to convince a judge that a joint physical custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest, it’s best to keep in mind the above considerations.
Fewer transitions, living closer to the other parent, and evidence that you’re making a good faith effort to communicate regularly and effectively with the other parent are important factors.
If you have any questions about joint physical custody schedules or any other family law questions, feel free to contact us.