October 2009 - How to Create
a Parenting Schedule
Once you have a basic custody agreement decided (or ordered by a court), you
still have a lot of work to do in order to create a workable parenting schedule.
If you have a court order that specifies alternate weekend and one night per
week visitation with the non-custodial parent, you might think there’s
nothing for you to do. Setting up a parenting schedule is actually rather complicated
and requires you and your ex to sit down together (if possible) and hammer out
the details. If you don’t have a court order and want to work this out
on your own, then you also need to find time to sit down and work through it.
Map It Out
You each need to bring your own calendar to the meeting, as well as have a calendar
showing all of your child’s sports events, school events, and extracurricular
activities. You should place a large blank month by month calendar on the table
in between you. Using pencil, start by plotting in all the visitation for the
next month. Then compare these dates to your own calendars and your child’s
calendar. Look for conflicts. For example, if you need to go out of town on
business on a weekend you would normally have, it would make sense to swap weekends
so your ex has your child at that time. If pick and drop off from visitation
falls in the middle of a soccer game, dance practice or birthday party your
child goes to, you need to adjust the times.
Once you’ve worked through one month, try plotting out the next two. Work
through that, then set up a tentative schedule for the rest of the year. Keep
in mind this has to be tentative and subject to change. It’s really hard
to know what is going to be happening in December when you are scheduling in
March. Plan to be flexible and make adjustments as you go.
Next work on the holiday schedule. If you have a court order, it might spell
out who has which holiday, but you’ll still need to make some adjustments.
For example, if your ex has Thanksgiving this year but the Saturday and Sunday
after it would normally be his weekend, it might make sense to switch out that
weekend, so you will have some time with your child on that holiday weekend.
If your ex has Christmas Eve, but that falls on a weekend that would be yours,
you’ll need to remember that holidays trump regularly scheduled weekends.
Make Changes Together
Try to be flexible with each other. Remember that you can make any changes to
the visitation plan that you both agree on – and in fact courts want you
to do this rather than filling up the docket with trivial things like this.
If you can work it out on your own, you absolutely should do so. If you’re
worried about your ex pulling a fast one, you can enter a stipulation into court
to get the change made official.