Developing specific parenting time gives your children and both parents the stability and predictability that everyone needs to assure a strong relationship between parents and children. Recently, some groups have advocated for 50/50 parenting time; often scheduled as one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent. This is an option. However, one size doesn’t fit all. There are many variables to consider, including how available parents are to provide direct care, the parent’s experience and temperament in caring for children, the ages and needs of the children.
Parenting time should be scheduled ideally by the parents, who know their family situation the best. Spending some time educating yourself on child development and needs can help you enormously. However, when parents are embroiled in conflict, they may need the assistance of a mental health professional who will help them assess all the variables. In Collaborative Practice cases, engaging a child specialist is advised. This is usually a psychologist or social worker who will get input from the parents and the children to help the parents determine a schedule that will work well for their family. The child specialist can be available after the divorce to help the parents tweak the parenting schedule when needed as the children age or the family situation changes.
Some states have published guidelines for parents to study that review the varying needs of children of different ages and developmental levels. Arizona’s Guide for Parents Living Apart presents a comprehensive approach to assessing what your children need for parenting time to be successful. This guide is being considered by judges in other states, such as Michigan, when they are called upon to order parenting schedules.
Arizona’s Guide has the added advantage of having parents consider what their needs are and what other obligations they need to schedule. For example, while a new parent may be reluctant to share parenting time of an infant with the other parent, the primary parent needs to consider that they need a break from parenting, too. That parent may need to return to working outside the home or may need to increase his/her working hours. Having the other parent care for the child is often preferable to child care. Sharing parenting time with the other parent can provide needed free time for each parent.
During a time when parents are hurting and uncertain of the future, it can be difficult to develop a schedule that makes sense for their children and for them. However, taking some time to consider your children’s particular needs and the pros and cons of different parenting schedules for the children and for the parents can provide the stability that you want for your family.