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Shared Family Plan: Three to Five Years, Part II

When planning the amount of time and the number of consecutive overnights the child will spend with each parent, parents should consider:

  •  The amount of childcare each of the parents provided prior to separation.
  • The child’s temperament.
  • The level of conflict between parents.
  • Familiarity with the other parent’s home.

             If one parent was minimally involved in the child’s daily routine, a few days each week including a full weekend day will allow the relationship and caregiving skills to develop. As the child becomes more comfortable moving between two homes, additional time and one or two overnights may be added.

             If both parents are working outside the home at the time of separation and the child is in day care, parents might consider splitting each weekend so the child has one full stay-at-home day and overnight with each parent every week, as well as some weekday contact. While this may not be the best solution for the parents, it is helpful to many young children in the early stages of separation.

             If one parent is primarily at home with the child, the parenting plan may offer the other parent more weekend time, in addition to some weekday contact.

             Some parents find that an every-other-weekend schedule with midweek contact works well. As the child moves through this developmental stage, weekends may be extended to include either Friday or Sunday night or both.

             When both parents have been actively involved in the child’s daily routine, depending on the child’s temperament and adjustment, ease of transitions and the effectiveness of parental communication, reasonably equal time may be considered.

 
 

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Shared Parenting Strategies: Creating a Shared Family Schedule

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.

 
 

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