Working on creating a parenting schedule for a family that’s recently separated is never easy, but creating a formal schedule can help smooth over a lot of bumps in the road before they even happen. No matter how well you and your former spouse get along, having a schedule you can reference gives both of you a solid frame you can build your new relationship around without risking further stress on your children
Before anything else you need to determine the type of custody you’d like to establish. Broadly you can start with single or joint custody, or whether or not you’re going to share custody or give the child over entirely to the parent. In most cases you’re going to be looking at joint custody. With joint custody you can break it down into percentages, ranging from 50/50. 60/40, or even 80/20, where one parent is given a certain percentage of the time with the child and the other parent gets the remainder. Which structure is best for your family depends on a lot of factors, including work schedules and living locations. If one parent is in New York and the other is in California an 80/20 schedule may make more sense. These percentages can change as time goes on and you work out what schedule works best for you, so start small. Only write out your schedule for a few weeks at a time at first until you hit a good rhythm to give yourself room for adjustments.
After you’ve established your regular schedule you should sit down and determine how holiday schedules are going to work. This should cover not only religious and national holidays but school holidays as well. Make a list of every holiday that the two of you would like to cover and discuss which ones you’d like to have custody of the child for. There are some — like Thanksgiving or Christmas — that may not be as clear cut and may require negotiation or an agreement to split the day. The mother may have custody of the child on Christmas morning and the father may take the last half of the day as a compromise, for example.
It’s also important to clarify that a holiday schedule trumps your regular weekly schedule. So if you’ve agreed that the father gains custody of the child over the long Thanksgiving weekend and that would typically be the mother’s weekend on the regular weekly rotation, the father would have custody instead. This should be kept in mind when determining which holidays will belong to whom.
No matter how well you plan your schedule, special circumstances will occur that exist outside of your planned schedule. If your child is in a play all week and needs to practice over the weekend, the parenting schedule may need to change to accommodate this. There are also vacations to consider, which can require some advanced planning. If you’d like to take your child on a vacation with you, make sure you discuss it with the other parent as early as possible so the two of you can figure out how best to fairly work out your parenting schedule. When setting your weekly or holiday schedules you and your ex can talk then about formal dates for individual vacation times or you can decide to work with an unverified schedule. An unverified schedule is when instead of choosing specific dates, you choose a number of days out of the year you reserve to take the child on vacation either all at once or spread out throughout the year.
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