There is no fixed rule as to what is or is not an appropriate parenting schedule and no schedule is perfect. Nevertheless, there are some schedules that are more common than others because they fit the reality of everyday life better than others.
The most common element in parenting schedules is alternating weekends. Alternating weekends are the core of the vast majority of parenting schedules. Alternating weekends are suitable if parents live in the same town and even if they live within two or three hours of each other by car.
Alternating weekends typically means from Friday through Sunday with fixed transition times. Common variations include starting on Thursday nights or Saturday mornings as well as ending on Monday mornings. Also, in many cases whichever parent has the child on a weekend that is followed by a Monday holiday, will have the child for the Monday holiday too.
The next most common element in a typical parenting schedule is mid-week parenting time. More often than not this means a dinner visit. These typically start as soon as the non-custodial parent is available, be it after they get out of work, or when the child is out of school. The visit would run through a time in the early evening that is suitable and appropriate given the child’s age, bed time and how long it will take for the child to be returned home. Usually, this is around 7:00 p.m. for pre-teen children and maybe 8:00 p.m. for teenagers. These times of course can be, and frequently are, pushed back during summer vacations from school when children often have later bed times. Generally, speaking, the end time of a mid-week visit will be based upon the bed time of the younger or youngest child. This must also account for home-work and extra-curricular activities.
From these most common elements, comes the most common parenting schedule for non-custodial parents. This is parenting time on alternating weekends from Friday to Sunday as well as parenting time for a dinner visit either one or two nights per week. If this is just one night, typically it will be a Wednesday. Where there are two evening visits, Tuesday and Thursday evenings are the most common nights. Both of these arrangements are designed to divide the week in some sort of balanced manner. They also are designed to avoid long periods of separation for the non-custodial parent and the child.
For a rather long time this alternating weekend schedule with an evening or two mid-week was about the best a non-custodial parent could expect. But over the past decade non-custodial parents who want to play a bigger part in parenting their children have been able to expand upon this typical schedule. This will be discussed more in a later blog post.
In reality the variations in a parenting schedule are too numerous to mention. What is “typical” goes out the window when parents work rotating shifts, overnights, weekends or travel frequently for work. But the fact of the matter is that even rotating schedules and overnights have some sort of regular pattern. Most employers have their employees work some sort of regular or repeating schedule. So although nurses, the police and firefighters have schedules that are moving targets, there is nothing stopping the parties from crafting a parenting schedule that follows the pattern of these schedules.
Parenting schedules need to be adaptable. Some flexibility always should be built into a parenting schedule. Kids get sick, it snows, and special events and occasions come up. To account for the most schedules will include the simple, yet very important, phrase “And such other and further time as the parties mutually agree.”
Of course, parenting schedules are not meant to last forever. They can be changed at any time by the agreement of the parties. This way, parents can adapt these schedules to the changing needs of their growing children. Formal modification of schedules will be discussed in another later blog post.