People love their children. I get that. The Court gets that.
They know that the vast majority of parents would love to have their children all of the time.
But the reality is that if the Court is going to be determining child custody, you are going to have to come up with a plan that includes the other parent having time with the children (unless there are some major issues).
You need to know that a parenting plan is required in each case where there are minor children.
You also need to know that you can put it in a drawer and forget about it so long as you and the other parent agree on a schedule that works.
Nobody will get in trouble for deviating from the parenting plan if there is an agreement.
The plan is there for when there is no agreement.
You also need to know that parenting plans can be extremely customized.
What I describe below are some of the more popular plans, but that doesn’t mean that you need to do one of them.
Usually, there are a few things that get put into parenting plans that are specific to that case. Do not be afraid to talk with your attorney about what you want.
When drafting your proposed parenting plan, you need to keep in mind that every state is different.
Her in Missouri, for instance, the court favors an equal division of time, and should they not divide the parenting time equally, they have to say why they are not doing that.
There can be plenty of good reasons, but 50/50 is the default most of the time if it makes sense and the parties can do it.
There are several ways to come up with a 50/50 plan.
One is week-on/week-off parenting plan.
If you are going to do this, I strongly suggest that the exchanges do not happen on a Friday or Sunday night (which is what most people think they want).
I have found that my clients are generally much happier with a Wednesday exchange, which allows them to take a long weekend either before or after the weekend (usually depending on the children’s school calendar).
The most popular, and what I generally recommend, is called the 2-2-5-5 plan.
This is when Parent A has the children every Monday and Tuesday overnight, Parent B has the children every Wednesday and Thursday overnight, and you alternative Friday, Saturday, and Sunday overnights.
You then have the children for 2 overnights, then 5 overnights. It is easy to plan schedules, the kids know where they are going based on the day of the week (other than Friday), and it is simple.
The other popular 50/50 schedule is the 2-2-3 schedule.
That means that in Week 1, Parent A has Monday and Tuesday overnight, Parent B, has Wednesday and Thursday night, and then Parent A has Friday, Saturday and Sunday overnight. In week 2, the schedule flips, so not Parent B has the kids Monday and Tuesday overnight, Parent A has Wednesday and Thursday overnight, and Parent B has the kids Friday, Saturday, and Sunday overnight.
So you have the children 2 nights in a row, then 3 nights in a row.
I generally recommend this schedule if there are very young children or where someone cannot get 5 overnights without seeing their children.
It is easy to follow, but a bit harder to make advanced planning than the 2-2-5-5 schedule above.
Next, we have the 6 out of 14 plan.
This is usually done when someone is wanting more time, but cannot do a full 50/50 plan.
The 6 out of 14 plan that I recommend is that you have the children every other weekend (Friday to Monday) and every Tuesday night, but on the Thursday night of the other parent’s weekend, you have the children overnight. So in the end, you have 6 out of 14 overnights.
Then we have the plan used most of the time behind the 2-2-5-5 plan, which is where one parent has the children one night per week (usually Wednesdays), as well as every other weekend (from Friday until Sunday night or Monday morning).
Finally, we have the every-other-weekend plan, which is every other Friday until Sunday or Monday morning.
When deciding what plan is right for your children, be sure you are taking the other parent into consideration.
Children need a relationship with both parents, and a parent’s willingness to encourage this relationship is a factor when deciding to award custody.
An unnecessarily restrictive plan will likely go against you. A plan that makes sense is what the Court is interested in.
If you go to work at 5:00 a.m., the odds are you are not going to be able to get your kids to school at 8:00 a.m.
Don’t fight to have the overnights just because “it’s fair”, even if it gets you a discount on your child support (as the Line 11 credit on the Form 14 is based on overnights with your children).
It is not fair to your children to drag them out of bed at an unnecessarily early hour, nor is your time with them going to be quality time if all they are doing is sleeping in the car on the way to some early morning childcare provider (if you can even find one).
What I am saying is that when making your parenting plan, make one that makes sense for everyone involved.
Both parents need to have “fun” time with the children. Both parents need to have “focus” time with the children.
As much as we all love having the kids for the weekend, I bet a lot of your memories with your family were spent getting help with homework, having dinner at night, etc. Your kids should have that as well, and should have those memories with both parents.
It is not fair to make one parent the only one who is on the kids about homework all week, while the other parent gets all of the weekends.
That may be the only schedule that works, but perhaps you need to work in a weekend each month for the other parent to get some down/fun time with the children as well.
If you are trying to craft a long-distance parenting plan, where one parent lives far away from the children most of the time, then perhaps the distant parent gets most of the summer, but maybe not all of it.
I personally like to do the exchanges the Friday before or after Father’s Day weekend (so Father gets it), which, in most circumstances, allows the school-parent to have some time to vacation with the children.
I also like to have the kids come back at least a week before school resumes so they can get back in good habits and be adequately prepared.
When it comes to a holiday schedule, take each family’s celebrations into consideration.
If your family does Christmas Eve, and your spouse’s family gets together on Christmas day, it is silly to alternate those two holidays.
Make a plan that allows your children to participate in both celebrations whenever possible. Just because you are splitting up doesn’t mean your children should miss out.
When looking at vacation provisions, week-on/week-off over the summer is popular when each parent is able to spend that time actually with the children, but if you got work for 8 hours each weekday and the other parent is off (example: a teacher), it really isn’t fair to the children to be alone each weekday when another parent is home, ready, willing, and able to spend the days with he kids.
You also need to consider how you want to structure the vacations. Most parents get 2 weeks each over the summer to vacation with the children (even if it is just a staycation). However, I have found that it is usually better to give each parent 2 one-week periods to vacation with the kids rather than have them be away from the other parent for 14 nights. That is just a long time to go without seeing your children in most situations.
However, be flexible and do not deny your children experiences. If you ex wants to take them on a 10-day cruise, do not deny your children of that just because the parenting plan says you can.
I also like to include that the children can participate in weddings and funerals of a parent’s immediate family.
This should not have to be said but denying your children opportunities to celebrate or mourn with their family is not fair to them.
This is especially true when the other parent is getting married. No Court likes to hear that the children were not included in a special day because it was “my time”.
You can build in make-up parenting time into the parenting plan if you are worried about losing time, but make your decisions based upon the best interest of the minor children (even if you cannot stand your ex or their family).
These are some of the more popular plans, but again, you can customize the plan however you would like, or deviate from the parenting plan by agreement.
This is just the backup plan if no agreement is in place. Most parents rarely even look at the plan if they are able to communicate and act in their children’s best interests.
Regardless of what your plan ends up being, remember that your children did not choose this, and denying them contact with their other side of the family will likely come back to haunt you.
Be flexible when you can, and work with the other parent to ensure that the children do not miss important things.
You, and your kids, will be a lot happier when you can co-parent with your ex.
If you would like to know more about anything related to family law attorneys, please contact the divorce attorneys at Haefner Law Office at 314-200-6101 for a free 30-minute consultation. We may have solutions or ideas that you have not thought of, and we seem to be getting more creative by the day when it comes to parenting plans!