If you ask divorcing couples with children the top five biggest issues during the divorce you are almost assured of having the children’s visitation schedule on that list. There are numerous reasons why this happens as well as why the children often feel like pawns in the divorce. We want you to avoid problems with your spouse as well as the problems and challenges children face when the parents are battling out the right to spend time with them in court.
Creating “Homes” for Your Children
When working out visitation schedules, it is important to realize you are actually talking about your children, not a possession. Even though they are young, they have needs, wants, and desires, just like every other person. Their needs may not be the same as an adult, but they do exist.
For instance, your little girl more than likely does not want to share a room with her brothers. The children have friends they want to be around. They probably have after-school activities they enjoy and do not wanted to be interrupted simply because it is dad’s day to see them. In other words, they want to feel like they are “home” wherever they are at during that particular time.
The first challenge in creating two homes for the children is the actual location of both parent’s homes. If the parents live in close proximity, this is much easier. But, in many cases, the parents are not exactly walking distance from each other. After all, you just got divorced, why would you want to live so close to your ex, right? There is a very simple answer to this question…The Children!
Parents will often use the “typical” visitation schedule instead of really looking at the best interests of the children. For example, dad gets the kids one night for dinner, every other weekend, and split holidays. It may sound good and convenient on the surface, but what kind of life is this for the children? How much of an influence can this “secondary” parent actually have on the lives of the children? Does it become more of a “friend” relationships than a parental one?
Getting Along with Your Ex around the Children
The bottom line here is that if you truly want to be involved in the children’s lives, you are going to have to be around your ex, probably more than you would like. In addition to actual visitation schedule setup, which we will get to shortly, there are other times when you should and need to be there for your children.
Both parents are going to have to find a way to get along when it comes to the children. Do you really want to miss your daughter’s starring role in the school play? Do you want to miss your son’s first homerun in his little league debut? Do you want to miss seeing how incredible your son or daughter looks before going to prom? These are all huge events in any child’s life, and mom and dad should be able to be around each other during these times and not act like, well, children.
When mom and dad cannot get along, it means one parent misses out on the life of their child and the children misses out on having both parents involved in their life. For sake of a better word, it is unacceptable. But, the parents not being able to get along is the primary reason why the custodial parent will restrict if the other parent is able to spend time with the children on his or her days.
What Happens When We Just Can’t Get Along?
In a perfect world, mom and dad figure it out. However, we realize this is not always possible. Sometimes the hurt of the divorce, or should we say the reason behind the divorce, is just too much to get over and one parent simply cannot forgive the other parent. This makes being around each other difficult, which usually leads to impossible.
This does not mean mom or dad should see less of the children, it just means that mom and dad need to work out a different type of visitation schedule. This ensures both parents are still influential in their children’s lives and are playing a parental role instead of worrying about just being their child’s friend because their time with them is so limited.
So, how can you make it fair for both parents and the children? The answer is in working out a rotating, fair schedule that involves both weekdays and weekends. This “schedule” should also allow time for both parents to enjoy weekends instead of one parent constantly having the children every weekend. There are lots of events and “things” the kids do during the week and on the weekend that both parents of which both parents need to experience, enjoy, and participate.
Visitation Schedule Ideas
To this point, we have given you reasons why you need to work out the schedule. Now we are actually going to work out some sample schedules that can help you and your ex work things out so each parent is spending the appropriate time with the children.
The idea situation has the parents living close enough so that both parents can spend a little more time with the children. This also lends itself to avoiding the short “dinner” visit during the week and actually allows the non-custodial parent to have more meaningful time during the school week with the children.
First, treat the schedule as a two-week rotation. Reasoning behind this is that both parents get to have the kids at different times during the week and weekend. For our example, mom has custodial rights and is designated by the letter “M”. Dad has visitation rights and is designated by the letter “D”. The schedule would like something like this:
Monday – M
Tuesday – M
Wednesday – M
Thursday – M/D
Friday – D
Saturday – D
Sunday – D/M
Monday – M
Tuesday – M
Wednesday – M
Thursday – M/D
Friday – D
Saturday – D/M
Sunday – M
One of the benefits of this schedule is the transition day, or Thursday. It is important to have regularity and avoid “rushing” visits with the children. Since Thursday starts their visit instead of a two-hour dinner visit, it just becomes part of the children’s routine and will be much easier for them to adjust.
A second benefit is that both parents have “free” time every other weekend as well as being able to spend weekend time with their children. Mom has every Friday night and every other Saturday night free while dad gets every other Saturday night free.
One more benefit is that the father actually gets to act like a father and not a buddy. Because the visitation is during the school week, dad has to bring them home, help them with homework, get them to bed, get them up for school, get them to school, pick them up, etc… In other words, he has to act like a parent!
What if Weekday’s Do Not Work?
As we said, the above schedule is an ideal schedule, but not always possible. If one parent lives too far away or has a weekday work schedule that does not lend itself to having the kids, something more “traditional” must be worked out. If this is the case, you still want the “visiting” parent to have meaningful time with the kids, which means giving up more than just every other weekend.
A way to do this is in creating a longer “rotation” than the usual every other weekend. For instance, create a five-week rotation instead of a four-week rotation with dad having the children three out of the five weekends. This gives mom a little more “time off” and allows the father have even more time with the kids.
Be Flexible with the Schedule
If you really want this to work, though, both parents need to be flexible. For instance, using our example above with mom having custodial rights, maybe mom would like to have a full weekend “off” or has a trip planned. Since the normal schedule dictates she has the children at some point every weekend, maybe dad can take them Friday through Monday morning from time to time.
You also need to be reasonable and understanding with your ex, regardless of your feelings towards him or her. Emergencies will happen where the schedule needs to be thrown out the window from time to time. By working with each other during these times, you are much more likely to keep things on an even keel and have the schedule continue to be the norm. Just remember, though, when you are with the kids, be with the kids, not somewhere else mentally!
Get Legal Assistance with your Visitation Schedule by filling out the Free Family Law Evaluation Form!