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Things To Consider When Deciding Your Family’s Time-Sharing Schedule

©2023 Elinor Robin, PhD, LMHC, LMFT

Before deciding your family's time-sharing schedule consider:


1. Your family is unique. Your family is undergoing restructuring. Be open to a variety of possibilities. Allow yourself to look at the big picture. Focus on the needs of your children.

2. Put your feelings aside. The time to work on feelings of betrayal and abandonment is not while you are making time-sharing decisions. Put these feelings aside and deal with them later.


3. Creating a time-sharing schedule is something you should do now. Later, when time-sharing disagreements have escalated, it may be too late to hold a productive conversation. If you and your co-parent never need to look at the schedule it’s a win-win. On the flip side, if you and your co-parent disagree, or if both of your brothers are getting married on the same weekend in different cities, you will need

the written schedule to determine where your children should be. As a rule, the more details the better. Simply defining the schedule as “flexible” is a set-up for failure.

4. Time-sharing options are endless. And future circumstances (new jobs, new spouses, etc.) may turn the current plan upside down. In addition, as children get older, they will assert more input on scheduling. While there is no one size fits all schedule, what is important is structure, consistency, and parental agreement. Before you create your time-sharing plan consider:

(a) Which parent is better able to undertake, manage, and complete day-to-day parenting responsibilities such as shopping, homework, sick trips to the doctor, routine check-ups, playtime visits with friends, chauffeuring, daily hygiene, and discipline?


(b) Are both parents committed to (i) encouraging the child’s relationship with the other parent, (ii) conferring with the other parent, and (iii) keeping the other parent informed on all child-related issues such as report cards, illnesses, and extracurricular activities?


(c) What is the court likely to order if co-parents are unable to agree? Does the court use a standard schedule for co-parents who are unable to agree? Is there a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing in your jurisdiction?


(d) How far are your homes from the child(ren)’s school(s)? How will location affect the morning and afternoon commutes, participation in school activities, and playing with school friends after school?

5. Consistency is important. How can you best set your schedules to maintain consistency in your child(ren)’s bedtime, homework, bath, meals, activities, etc. during school time?


6. In a perfect world, each parent would have some playtime, some work time (carpooling, homework, etc.) and some alone time with each of their child(ren).


7. Children should be expected to follow the rules of the household that they are in. Be consistent in your own house, with your own rules. If the other parent has different rules, that is OK.


8. Younger children, especially, need frequent visits with each parent. The visits do not need to be overnight.


9. The closer you and co-parent live to each other the easier co-parenting will be.


10. Do your best to be flexible and accommodate your co-parent whenever possible. Your time-sharing schedule is your fallback action plan that will be used when you cannot work around each other’s needs. As you put the plan together, consider mid-week, weekend, holiday, and vacation schedules.


11. Use precise start and end times in your time-sharing plan. For instance, “mother’s time ends at school drop off or 8am for a child not in school and father’s time begins at school drop off or 8am for a child not in school.” (This makes it clear which parent will be responsible when school is not in session, or a child is sick.) Also be sure to include the date you are going to begin so that you could go back, even years later, and count off to see which parent has a given weekend.


12. Define terms. For instance, when you define weekend, you will have a clear start and end time. Does this change over three-day weekends? When does Christmas or Yom Kippur start and end? Avoid using “equal time-sharing” or other vague terms. If you are going to divide a holiday with odd years/even years, designate which will have odd and which will have even.


13. Any holiday, event, or birthday can be celebrated on a different day. (Except Halloween or the 4th of July.)

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