Parenting time (occasionally referred to as visitation) can be one of the most contentious issues in family law. This is true regardless of whether the parents are divorcing or otherwise transitioning to two households. The idea of being removed from your child’s life is terrifying and crushing. The fear of playing a minimal or distant role in his or her upbringing is unacceptable. When tensions are high, parenting time can appear as a zero-sum game. It doesn’t have to be.
There are ways to maximize both parents’ involvement with a child’s life without pursuing full-tilt litigation. There are parenting time schedules that can permit both parents to be active and present in their child’s daily life. It does require some compromise and a familiarity with the options on the table.
Every Other Weekend Parenting Time
The every other weekend schedule, once the standard schedule, is becoming increasingly rare. In an every other weekend schedule, the non-residential parent (meaning the parent with less than the majority of the parenting time) has parenting time with his or her children from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon. That parent typically has one or two evenings of parenting time each week, where he or she gets dinner with the kids, but usually does not have an overnight during the week.
The every other weekend model is becoming less common in part because parents are being more vocal about wanting more time with the kids, courts are becoming more accommodating and understanding of those requests, scientific literature supports the idea that frequent contact with both parents tends to be beneficial in child development, and because more parents are planning their separation around parenting time.
Expanded Every Other Weekend Parenting Time
An expanded every other weekend is as it sounds. It builds off of the every other weekend schedule by adding days. This often appears as the non-residential parent having parenting time from Thursday to Sunday or even Thursday to Monday morning. Just like a traditional every other weekend schedule, the non-residential parent will typically have evening parenting time one or two weekdays each week.
7-7 Split (or 1-1) v. 5-2 Split
A 7-7 split, or a week-on, week-off, gives each parent seven consecutive days of parenting time. This is typically scheduled from Monday to Sunday or Monday to Monday. A 5-2 split is very similar, except that the transition day occurs on Friday. In a 5-2 split, Parent A has the five weekdays and Parent B has the two weekend days. Parent B then keeps the child for the following five weekdays and the schedule flips.
In all schedules where the parents have substantially equal parenting time (or where that parenting time requires pickups or drop-offs at school) it is helpful if the parents live near one another and near the child’s school. Equal parenting works only if the parents can help the child maintain his or her regular schedule at both parents’ homes.
2-2-3 and Fixed 2-2-3
A fixed 2-2-3 schedule breaks the weekdays up into two 2-day blocks, with the weekend being the remaining three days. Ina 2-2-3 schedule, Parent A has the children each Monday and Tuesday, Parent B has the children each Wednesday and Thursday, and the parents alternate caring for the kids on the weekend.
A floating 2-2-3 schedule is similar to a fixed 2-2-3, except that the parent who did not have the kids over the weekend gets the kids for the following Monday and Tuesday. As such, if Parent A has Monday and Tuesday in Week 1, he or she would also have the kids that weekend. In Week 2, Parent B has the kids Monday and Tuesday and that weekend.
Co-parenting is hard. A parenting schedule is only part of the process (albeit a significant part). Communication is key. So is cost-sharing and child support. True co-parenting means sharing responsibility in all aspects of the children’s lives. As always, we are happy to help and answer any questions that come up.