Since no research supports a given number of hours or days that children should spend with each parent, the information provided discusses what arrangements seem to work for other co-parents. As parents, you are in the best position to determine what schedule will meet the needs of your child.
Before designing a plan for your family, you should consider your own unique situation. The Family Assessment set out below will help you develop a framework for your individualized plan.
Raising children is difficult for all parents. When parents live in separate homes the challenges are greater because relationships are more complicated. Sometimes one parent disagrees about how much time a child should spend with the other. Before planning a time-sharing arrangement for your family, it is helpful to consider:
- The age, temperament and social adjustment of each child.
- Any special needs of each child (medical, developmental, educational, emotional or social).
- The quality of relationships between siblings and any other extended family members.
- Each child’s daily schedule.
- Care giving responsibilities of each parent before the separation.
- How you would like to share responsibilities both now and in the future.
- Availability of each parent as a caregiver.
- Potential flexibility of each parent’s work schedule.
- Distance between each parent’s home, workplace, and children’s schools.
- The ability of parents to communicate and cooperate with each other.
- The ability and willingness of each parent to learn basic care giving skills such as feeding, changing and bathing a young child; preparing a child for daycare or school; taking responsibility for helping with homework; assessing and attending to each child’s special emotional and social needs.
Often, someone who has not been an active parent prior to separation may wish to become more involved afterward. The initial parenting plan should allow that parent enough time to develop a closer relationship with the child, while at the same time recognizing the existing relationship. As the parent-child bond strengthens, changes can be made to the schedule.
These considerations should remain a basic reference as children move from one developmental stage to another and as time-sharing arrangements are modified from time to time.