Types of Custody Schedules That Put Kids First

Custody schedules are a critical part of any parenting plan. What worked best for us was that we viewed every decision through the lens, “Do what’s best for Asher.” That perspective helped us navigate the complicated world of custody schedules. However, every family is different and the task of custody schedules can be overwhelming. We’re here to help. Here’s a comprehensive guide of the different custody schedules that put kids first. 

“Our entire agreement started with our mutual commitment to joint custody; we knew that Asher needed us both to be equally engaged in his life. Our dedication to sharing our time with him 50/50 has shaped our family and our lives in unique ways, and it’s been one of the highlights of building our happy divorce.” ~ Nikki DeBartolo


When you begin making plans, Parents.com reminds co-parents that there’s a difference between shared legal custody (which covers legal decision-making) and shared physical custody (which applies to where the kids actually spend their time). Most often, parents begin their custody conversations with 50/50 physical custody and adjust as needed.  


How to Choose a Custody Schedule 

While 50/50 custody is much more common for today’s modern families than it was for previous generations, it may not be the right split for your family. It’s Over Easy points out that many factors can influence your custody split, and it may evolve over time. Think about:

  • The ages of your children
  • The level of cooperation between you and your co-parent
  • Your commitment to keeping the schedule consistent versus flexible

Typically, 50/50 custody is the starting point. This means that each parent has custody of the children 50% of the week, month or year. Next, it’s time to decide how this custody schedule actually looks on a calendar. 


Your custody schedule may need to change as your children get older, they get involved in more activities, or you or your ex moves to different areas of town. As co-parents, focus on creating a schedule that puts the kids first and adjust as needed. 


Full Week Custody Schedules

When kids are younger, or parents don’t live close enough to each other to make frequent transfers possible, consider these full-week custody schedules. 


Alternating Weeks: Sometimes called “week on, week off,” in this type of custody schedule, kids spend one full week with one parent, then the next full week with the other parent. Parents can decide which day the week starts and ends on (Sunday to Saturday, for example) and also what time the kids will transfer to the other parent. This custody schedule avoids multiple mid-week transfers.


2 Weeks Each: Instead of going back and forth every other week, kids stay with the custodial parents for two weeks at a time. This reduces the number of times kids have to shift from house to house, but the two-week stretches may be too long for younger children. Some parents may use this schedule only in the summer to make vacationing easier.


Custody Schedules with Mid-Week Transfers

Sometimes, a week away from one parent is too long for the kids. In these cases, splitting the week up is a good idea. 


Keep in mind that in these schedules, custody is 50/50 over the course of two weeks. During week one, one parent will have more days and during week two, the other parent will have more days. But, at the end of the two week period, the amount of custody days for each parent is equal. There are several ways to split the weeks up fairly. 


The numbers in these schedules represent the number of days for each parent. In 3-4-4-3, Parent One has 3 days, then Parent Two has 4 days, then Parent One has 4 Days and then Parent Two has 3 days. Then the schedules reset. 

 

3-4-4-3: In this schedule, parents always have the same three consecutive days of the week and the fourth day alternates back and forth. For example, one parent may have Monday-Wednesday, while the other parent has Friday-Sunday. Thursday alternates back and forth. Note that weekends do not alternate in this schedule unless you choose to make a Saturday or Sunday the day that alternates back and forth. 


5-2-2-5: If you prefer to alternate entire weekends with the kids, this is the schedule to try. In this schedule, each parent always has custody on the same two consecutive days of the week, either Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday and Thursday. The weekend alternates between the parents.


2-2-3: If you want your kids to go back and forth between parents as often as possible without transferring every other day, try the 2-2-3 custody schedule. Parent One has custody for 2 days of the week, then Parent Two has custody for the next two days. Then, the kids return to Parent One for 3 days. The next week, the schedules switches and Parent Two has 2 days, then Parent One has 2 days, and then Parent Two has 3 days. 


Summer Custody Schedules

Sometimes, co-parents decide to switch things up in the summertime. Parents who split the week during the school year may want to switch to a week on, week off schedule in the summer to give them long stretches of time together or to travel. Some families may choose to switch to a two-week schedule or even full months.


Successful custody schedules are flexible. Making sure kids have regular access to the non-custodial parent through phone calls or video chats can help ease their feelings of loneliness. When you’re putting the kids first, it’s a good idea to gauge how the kids are reacting to absences and adjust the schedule from there. Make sure you’re checking in on your kids to see if the custody schedule is truly working for them. When we were in the initial stages of Our Happy Divorce, Asher told us that he was feeling overwhelmed from transferring from house to house, and over time we gave him more of a voice to determine his own schedule with the helpful guidance of his parents working together. 

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