Divorce often means very large changes in a parent's life. One day you are married and live with your children, the next day you are in the midst of a divorce. Invariably, the breakup of your marriage also means that the time you may have spent with your child or children as a family unit now must be split with your ex-spouse. Suddenly, in most instances, you must come to terms with the fact that you will not see your children every day.
Unfortunately, this is unavoidable. Children live with their parents as a family while their parents are married. When parents can no longer live together, both parents must inevitably sacrifice time with their child or children so both parents can retain.
There is no magic formula or set schedule for each family. Sharing parenting time with the children may be as creative as both parents can live with, and ultimately revolves around what is in the child or children's best interests.
The question is, “What schedule is in the child or children's best interests?” To gauge this question and to determine the schedule that is right for you and your children will depend on many factors, including the following:
- The relationship of each parent with the child or children;
- The history during the marriage of caring for the children (providing meals, helping with homework, getting them ready for bed, etc.);
- Whether the child or children have special needs or disabilities and each parent's ability to provide special care for the same;
- Each parent's work and social schedules and their availability to care for and spend time with the child or children;
- The age of the child or children (children of all ages have differing needs);
- The gender of the child and their stage of development;
- The level of animosity and conflict between the parents and any history of parental alienation;
- The distances between the residences of both parents;
- Whether day care or other caregivers are available to care for the child or children when necessary;
- The prevalence of any domestic violence, abuse, or neglect;
- Cultural and religious factors;
- Among many others.
The above list is far from exhaustive. After all is said and done, you should know that a good parenting plan evolves with the child's needs. A plan that is best for your child now may not be in their best interest next year, or the year after that.
In developing and modifying your particular parenting plan, both parents should always weigh the positives and negatives of all facts within their particular set of circumstances and decide what is best for their child or children. After all, no matter the level of animosity in your marital situation, your child's needs are paramount.
As with every blog on this site, none of the above constitutes legal advice in any way. Should you find yourself in the midst of these issues, I strongly suggest you consult with experienced counsel to help you find the parenting plan that is right for your family.