Setting up specific parenting time gives your children and spouse the stability and predictability that everyone needs to assure a strong relationship. 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 one option, but 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.
Ideally, parenting time should be scheduled by the parents, who know their family situation the best. 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 works 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 y 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 Michigan when they are called upon to order parenting schedules.
The Arizona guide helps parents take into account the 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, 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 childcare. Sharing parenting time with the other parent can provide needed free time for each parent.
When parents are hurting and uncertain of the future, it can be hard to develop a schedule that makes sense for all. However, taking time to consider your children’s needs and the pros and cons of different parenting schedules can provide the stability you want for your family.