Creative Time-Sharing For The Modern Divorce.
Custody is one of those keywords we all know from divorce. It usually doesn’t bring up positive thoughts. We tend to drift to thoughts of contentious fights, heartbreak and loss of control. When you are used to seeing your child everyday how on earth can a plan be made to split their time?
Fortunately, time-sharing, what used to be commonly referred to as custody, is actually one of the most empowering aspects of the modern divorce. Divorcing spouses usually have a lot to disagree on but in most cases, they have a common priority in the best interests of their children. This is the one area that they can come together as “experts”.
No matter what’s going on in the marriage, as parents they both can agree that they want their Children to be happy, healthy and feel secure, especially during the divorce process. Things may seem out of control and there are so many unknowns during the split, but if the parties can get a handle on how they want to organize and handle the children, it can bring a sense of calm and teamwork.
Before the actual divorce, it is helpful to test out different scenarios to see what works for your family before committing to a permanent schedule. Things to keep in mind when figuring out your schedules are the location of each parent and the school, the ages of the children, parents’ occupations, after school activities and any special needs of the kids.
The parents are the experts here. Relying on a Judge who does not know your children makes it difficult for the Judge to truly assess your child’s best interests and the outcomes can be devastating. Nobody will ever know and love your children like you and your co-parent. As parents you can customize a schedule that works for your particular family, minimizing as much as possible the stress that may come from the family breaking up.
The customized schedule can truly come in all shapes and sizes. There is no right or wrong plan. You can get as detailed or as general as you wish. You can even craft customized schedules for each of your children based on their individual needs. Perhaps one of the kids is still a toddler and one is a teenager. Or one child is typical while one has special needs that only one of the parents is used to handling. Also, maybe the parents just want special alone time with each child to give them a feeling of specialness and to really check in without distraction.
I’ve seen some very innovative plans in my mediation and coaching practice. One that stands out is the couple that had a home on the water and they agreed to have mom live in the home while dad purchased a boat to live on and be docked in the mom’s “backyard”. The child had a 50/50 schedule on paper but she was free to be with mom or dad whenever she wished since they were both technically living on the same property. This obviously wouldn’t work for everybody but for this particular family it was perfect.
Unfortunately, another major thing to keep in mind these days is the effects of the pandemic. Most divorcing couples now are mentioning Covid and post Covid plans since the pandemic may be affecting the typical time-sharing schedule. Schools may be online and/or mom or dad may work in a field that exposes them to the virus. It’s vital to highlight the various scenarios that may arise.
No matter what creative schedule you come up with, I always tell my clients the very best schedule is the unwritten one. That is, if they both agree to changes in real life, they can disregard what the parenting plan says and do what is best for them as a family in any particular situation. This is a true sign of a successful co-parenting relationship.