Tips for Scheduling Parenting Time in Blended Families

blended family walking in field - parenting time concept

When your kids’ parenting time is controlled by two or more separate court orders, it can be hard to get everyone on the same page. Here are some tips for scheduling parenting time in blended families.

Scheduling Parenting Time with Step-Siblings and Half-Siblings

Today more than ever, many Michiganders live in blended families, where children of one or both parents from different relationships live together, at least some of the time. Most blended families have at least one child custody and parenting time order that directs when the children are at each respective home. When there are multiple orders in play, accommodating everyone’s schedules can be difficult, time consuming, and emotionally draining.

Tips for Accommodating Multiple Parenting Time Schedules

Spending time with half-siblings, step-siblings, and stepparents can provide your children with stability, memories, and family bonds that will serve them well throughout their lives. But when parenting time schedules don’t sync up, it can feel like someone is always missing from the family dinner table. Here are some tips to get everyone on a workable schedule.

Put the Kids’ Needs First

Negotiating visitation schedules shouldn’t be focused on how to get more parenting time with your kids, but on providing your kids the best environment you can. When kids are young, this may mean prioritizing play-time hours over overnights and nap times. However, parenting changes over time as kids get older. Middle school and high school students may look to their parents more for academic help and transportation to extracurricular events and social gatherings. If you can’t fill those roles, you may want to put the focus on other periods when everyone can be together.

Give Some to Get Some

Often getting parenting time schedules in sync will mean adjusting weekends or moving exchanges by an hour or two to accommodate transportation time. If you have a custody and parenting time order in place, think about these adjustments in terms of trades, rather than demands. Your co-parent is much more likely to accept a request to switch weekends than a firm statement that you need to have the kids on a specific date.

Be Flexible with Your Requests

Recognize that you are asking your co-parent to make changes to accommodate you and your family. That means being flexible to make things work. If you want to have all your children for a specific date – say a family reunion – consider offering your co-parents options to make up the time. This makes your request seem reasonable, and shows that you are acting in good faith to maintain your child’s relationship with all the parental figures in their lives.

Plan Ahead Whenever Possible

Getting everyone in a blended family together for a vacation or trip can affect multiplehouseholds. That takes time to coordinate. The earlier you start – even six months to a year in advance – the more time you have to work out the details and the less defensive your co-parents will be to having plans “sprung” on them at the last minute.

Who Can Pick a Child Up for Parenting Time?

One issue that comes up a lot for blended families is whether a child’s step-parent can provide transportation for parenting time. In general in Michigan, parenting time transportation can be provided by any licensed driver known to the child. Still, if you have a conflict that prevents you from picking your child up for parenting time, try to have a cool-headed conversation with your co-parent explaining the issue ahead of time and informing them who will be providing transportation in your place.

What Michigan’s Parenting Time Holiday Schedule Means for Blended Families

Even after your blended family has worked out your weekly parenting time schedule, holidays can still throw things for a loop. Most Michigan parenting time orders include specific holiday parenting time that overrides the day-to-day schedule. The default in many counties is to alternate holidays with fathers exercising a specific holiday in odd years and mothers the same holiday on even years. This can result in never having your whole family together for the holidays. However, the default isn’t absolute. If you know that you get every other holiday with the children from your first marriage, you can negotiate to make your new parenting time order match your old one, for example, by switching “odd” and “even” designations on the order.

How to Change Parenting Time Schedules

As you can see, the first step to scheduling parenting time for your blended family is to work together with the co-parents involved. This can be informal – through text messages or email – or with the assistance of attorneys or mediators. You can also use the collaborative law model to recognize each party’s needs and priorities and resolve any conflicts.

If you can’t come to an agreement, you can also file a post-judgment motion to modify parenting time. If you can demonstrate a proper cause or a change in circumstances since your last order, you can ask the court to re-evaluate your parenting time schedule and make adjustments. These changes are often less significant than those alleged in change of custody motions. In some cases, kids growing up and parents getting remarried can be enough to revisit the order. You and your family law attorney can then explain how staying with their siblings is in your children’s best interests. The judge can then award a new parenting time schedule that keeps your blended family together.

Get Help Syncing Up Your Blended Family’s Parenting Time Schedules

Getting everyone’s parenting time schedules to line up isn’t easy for blended families. At NSSSB, our Ann Arbor family law attorneys help parents keep the focus on their kids and negotiate parenting plans that are in your child’s best interests. Click here to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.