Creative Co-Parenting Schedules
By Alyson Falk
The “every-other-weekend and a weeknight dinner” schedule that has been the default, standard possession order for eons may not be the best possession time schedule for your family and your kids. A benefit of working with an experienced family law attorney is the opportunity to craft a possession order that is a good fit for your unique circumstances and in the best interest of your kids. While you can always informally agree otherwise, you must have a schedule in your custody orders, so it is imperative the schedule in your custody orders is something you can live with.
For Young Kids
For children under the age of 3, there is no defined schedule in the Texas Family Code, which means it is necessary to craft a custom possession schedule. Some experts suggest that children under the age of 3 require frequent contact with both parents, without spending too much time away from any one parent. Some parents are less comfortable parenting a young child on his or her own and do not want equal parenting time.
One version of an equal parenting time schedule that doesn’t keep children away from the other parent for too long is called, “2-2-3.” This schedule has a two-week rotation. In Week 1, Parent A has Monday and Tuesday, Parent B has Wednesday and Thursday, and then Parent A has Friday – Sunday. In week 2, Parent B has Monday and Tuesday, Parent A has Wednesday and Thursday, and Parent B has Friday – Sunday. Under this scenario, the most a parent is away from the child is for the 3-day weekend period.
Every Other Day
I’ve seen this work remarkably well in about two cases, and only for a limited period of time. In fact, it shocks me that it has worked even one time. For this schedule to go well, you’re pretty much required to have an excellent co-parenting relationship with your ex.
Garth Brooks, after retiring from superstardom in the early 2000s, used this schedule to share parenting time of his three daughters because he and his ex believed it was important for their daughters to see both parents every day. Whoever didn’t have the girls for an overnight period would go over to the other parent’s house in the morning to help get the girls ready for school (it helps that they lived on the same piece of farmland!), because Garth and his ex also believed it was important for their daughters to see them working well as co-parents. Again, this schedule is not for everyone and requires exceptional cooperation.
Chunks of Time
For some parents, equal parenting time of tender-aged children feels overwhelming or may actually be impossible or unworkable. A solution may be having regular 4- or 6-hour periods of possession every 2-3 days. You and your family lawyer can craft the unique schedule under this framework that works best for your kids’ needs and your co-parenting circumstances.
Some children are still breastfeeding when the possession schedule begins. This can be handled one of two ways—either the breastfeeding parent can send extra breastmilk to the other parent, or the breastfeeding parent can come breastfeed during the other parent’s periods of possession. Regardless, this again falls into the category of a possession issue requiring agreement or negotiation, so it is important that you meet with an experienced family law attorney to address your possession time priorities.
For Older Kids
You may have some complicating factors to consider—like extracurricular activities, homework and projects, and moodiness. Many kids feel unsteady having to uproot their lives and schlep everything to the other parent’s house every couple of days. The benefit of working with an experienced family law attorney is that you can assess all these factors and create a possession schedule that allows your children to thrive.
It is as simple as it sounds. You exchange your children at the same time every week—usually on Friday or Sunday evening, and the kids stay with each parent for a week at a time. This schedule can provide a lot of stability for your kids because they have time to get settled with the other parent and relax during the week. If it’s not your week to have your kids, you can still have lunch with them at school or attend their extracurricular activities.
This is similar to the “2-2-3,” schedule, described above, except that each parent has an uninterrupted 5-day period of possession for his/her weekends. Every week, Parent A has Monday and Tuesday, and Parent B has Wednesday and Thursday. Then, they alternate the weekends so that when it is Parent A’s weekend, Parent A always has the 5-day period of Friday – Tuesday; when it is Parent B’s weekend, Parent B always has the 5-day period of Wednesday – Sunday.
This can be hard on families with multiple children who have more than one extracurricular activity happening in a given week. If this sounds like your family, go ahead and prepare yourself to have some late night adventures running a forgotten jersey or ballet shoes over to the other parent’s house, though this can happen even in a week-on/week-off situation.
What’s Best for Your Family
Equal parenting time is a growing trend in our area, but it is not best for every family. It is NOT the default possession order in the Texas Family Code, so if equal parenting time does not feel right for your family, don’t feel pressured to agree to it. Rather, meet with an experienced family lawyer to evaluate what is best for your kids and your family.
When it comes to co-parenting schedules, one size fits all isn’t going to cut it. You need a co-parenting schedule that works best for your family. Our experienced family attorneys at Lazar Law can help you figure out what that looks like.