Scheduling time with kids is hard. It’s hard when you’re married, and it can be even tougher when you’re divorced or separated.
You have to think about a lot of new elements, such as picking the kids up and dropping them off from school and getting the kids to all of their events and activities. All the while your holding down a job and have other responsibilities as well.
The key is to make a parenting schedule in advance. This is true if you and your ex are on good terms or you want nothing to do with each other. Don’t just assume things will go well. Don’t assume your ex will help you out and be accommodating. Don’t assume you can predict the future. Make a schedule and get it in writing.
Below are four tips that can help.
1. With holidays, consider the traditions and the extended family.
Perhaps nothing about a schedule is more contentious than holidays. Naturally, you both want to have the kids on Christmas morning, but that’s not always possible. Remember to keep family traditions in mind. If you always head off to grandma’s and grandpa’s for Christmas, does that change the schedule? How much travel does that involve? If you have the kids that day and agree to send them back to your ex the next day for a belated celebration, can you realistically get them there in time?
2. Schedule vacations specifically.
Don’t just say that you both get a week with the kids during the summer and call it good. What happens when you both plan to take the kids on a road trip during the same week? Issues like this – especially when you’ve already paid money for hotel rooms, transportation, etc., often lead to fights. Making specific plans mean you won’t overlap.
3. Remember that your schedule can be unique.
Be flexible. Be realistic. Don’t assume a generic plan will do. Maybe you work from nine to five, for instance, but your ex works a third shift. What does that do for the schedule? Maybe you travel for work, so you occasionally have to throw the schedule out entirely. Be honest about your obligations and create a unique plan that fits for you.
4. Make sure the kids come first.
You may feel like the schedule is there for you and your ex, but it’s not. It’s there for the kids. Be sure they come first at all times. Consider their needs and desires and how those factor into the plan. Your own needs will have to trump theirs at times, but try to do everything you can to help them at every turn.
Creating a parenting schedule can be challenging. It means you must work with your ex. However, you’ll find that it also makes post-divorce life go much smoother for everyone involved.
Your situation is unique and you need a customized plan that works for you, your kids, and your ex. But in truth, other parents face many of the same issues that you do. That’s why an experienced family law attorney can help. Having handled many parenting time issues, the attorney will know what works and what doesn’t, given your circumstances.