Your divorce just got finalized, and you’re sharing custody with your ex at 50-50. Now you need to get down to the nitty-gritty of how to divide the time that your kids spend with each of you. You need to come up with a schedule that equally divides the time your children spend with each parent. In this post, we review the core principles to keep in mind, and provide specific templates for different 50-50 custody schedules.
There are two primary ways to go about dividing up the time. The first is to simply alternate days or weeks. The other is to rotate the days spent at each location. There are 5 variations of the alternating schedule, and 4 of the rotation schedule.
The choice of a specific custody schedule depends on a number of factors, such as kids’ age, school location, extracurriculars and the distance between the two locations. If you live further than 30 minutes apart, you might want to keep each visit longer to reduce the amount of time your child has to spend just traveling from place to place.
With joint custody agreements, it is important to maintain a fully functional bedroom and space in each home. Ideally, try to duplicate the most important objects so that they available at both locations. With the extended stays occurring at two different houses, you don’t want your children to feel like they don’t have a home because they are dragging their favorite things back and forth with each visit. Your goal should be to make them feel that they now have two homes, instead of one (or worse, that they have no home at all).
Below are some common joint custody schedules. Keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list, and that when figuring out your schedule, you should adjust and be flexible according to your child’s needs.
As a general note, when following an alternating schedule, the transition between parents can happen at any time during the week. Work with your co-parent and your kids to find a schedule that works best for you.
Plan #1: Alternate weeks
This is one of the most popular ways to split custody; it is simple and easy to remember. The kids spend one week at one house, and then the next week at the other home. The transition from parent to parent most commonly occurs over on Friday, as depicted, but the week can start and end whatever day works best for your family.
Plan #2: Alternate every 2 weeks
If transportation between the two homes is a big issue, a biweekly alternating schedule is also an option. While younger kids need more constant contact with their parent, older kids, such as in those in high school are more likely to enjoy and adapt to this schedule.
Plan #3: Alternate weeks with a midweek visit
If you feel that a week is too long to go without seeing your child, then you can arrange a visit sometime during the week. This could be as simple as having dinner together Wednesday night before they go back to their home for that week.
Plan #4: Alternate weeks with a midweek sleepover
This is a secondary option to the midweek visit. You can turn dinner into an overnight stay, send your kid off to school, and have the parent for that week proceed to pick them up. As opposed to the “visit” option in Plan #3, this method allows for the child to spend the entire night with the other parent.
Plan #5: Alternating every X days
While alternating weeks is usually more common, you can make the duration at each house as short or as long as you want. From alternating every 2 days, to every 10, it keeps the 50-50 split in mind as whatever time one parent gets, the other parent gets as well. If your child is older, try and ask their opinion as to what they would prefer.
Plan #6: 2-2-3 Rotation
With this schedule, the week is divided up between the two parents. The children spend two days with Parent A, two days with Parent B, then 3 days of the weekend with Parent A. The schedule for the next week then starts with Parent B, so that the children get to spend the weekend with the other parent. The obvious benefit is that both parents get equal amounts of weekend time, but moving every couple days between houses could prove stressful on the child, particularly if the two homes are not in close proximity with one another.
Plan #7: 3-3-4-4 Rotation
The child spends three days with Parent A, then three days with Parent B, followed by four days with Parent A, then four days with Parent B. Essentially, this schedule creates an established home for the children Sunday through Tuesdays with Parent A, and Wednesdays through Fridays with Parent B. In order to keep time equal between the two parents, time spent with the parent is alternated on Saturdays. This schedule can help keep things less disruptive as there are established days of the weeks that the child is at each home, and the duration spent at each home is slightly longer than the 2-2-3 rotation. In addition, they get to see both parents more often than with alternating week schedules.
Plan #8: 2-2-5-5 Rotation
This rotation is similar to Plan #7’s 3-3-4-4 Rotation, except that the established home for Parent A is Sunday through Monday, while the established home for Parent B is Tuesday through Wednesday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are then alternated between Parents A and B. If Parent A having all the Sundays is an issue, you could also start the rotation on Monday so that it is Friday, Saturday, Sunday that is alternating between the two parents.
Plan #9: 3-4-4-3 Rotation
This schedule is a slight combination of Plan #7 and Plan #8 above. The child spends three days with Parent A, then four days with Parent B, followed by another four days with Parent A, and then three days with Parent B, and the pattern then restarts. The result is that there is an established home two days of the week for each parent, and then the mid-week can be alternated.
As a reminder, no matter what schedule you choose, make sure that you are doing what is best for your family, especially your children. As they get older, try and give them a voice as to which schedule they prefer the most. It can also help to have a formal documentation of the schedule, which is where resources such as WeParent can help. It allows the family to have a synced calendar so that everyone is on the same page as to which home the child is at. Also, it can be good to have a separate plan in place for the holidays. Check out our blog post about how to manage the holidays.