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Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: How to Set Up a Long-Term Visitation Schedule (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on May 7, 2010

When Midweek Visits Don't Work

What can a noncustodial parent do when he does not get along with the co-parent and cannot visit the children for practical reasons during the week? One option is to seek more weekend visitation; instead of every other weekend, try three out of four weekends. Another very successful option is to split the year into ten five-week blocks instead of twelve four-week blocks. This takes a little more planning, but it can give the noncustodial parent three out of five weekends instead of two out of four weekends.

In a three-fifths weekend visitation schedule, the weeks are arranged in a five-week recurring A-B-B-A-B cycle in which A is the custodial parent and B is the visiting parent. On the first weekend of the cycle, the custodial parent has weekend visitation; on the second and third weekends the noncustodial parent has the weekend. On the fourth week, the weekend goes to the custodial parent, and on the fifth week, the weekend goes to the noncustodial parent. After the fifth week, the cycle starts again.

It is best to describe visitation in terms of a repeating cycle rather than referring to the first week of the month, the second week of the month, and so on. Months vary in the number of weeks, offering a cause for confusion and argument over "extra" weekends. Two-week repeating cycles are adequate to describe most visitation schedules. When a generic Week 1 and Week 2 are agreed to, simply mark a "1" or "2" on each Monday of a twelve-month calendar. The entire exercise takes about two minutes. Make sure that you and the co-parent have started on the same Week 1.

The Visitation Schedule I Recommend

I am partial to a particular type of shared parenting schedule that I have seen work well with both high-conflict and low-conflict divorced parents for many years. I suggest this when both parents are within a twenty-minute drive to school; when both parents are available to spend most of the allotted time with the child or children; and when the children are comfortable and happy with both parents. It is a two-week repeating schedule.

I will explain it with a notation showing how the children go from home to home with letters and symbols. The first day always represents Monday, so that the weekend can be seen as days in a row.

First, designate one parent as A and the other as B. An A in brackets ([A]) means that Parent A has the whole day with the children. A bracketed A/B ([A/B]) means the children go from Parent A to Parent B on that day.

  • Week 1 [A]-[A]-[A]-[A/B]-[B]-[B]-[B/A]. Parent A has the children on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for the entire day. On Thursday, the children go from Parent A to Parent B. They are with Parent B on Thursday after school or in the evening (depending on the transition time). They are with Parent B all day Friday and Saturday, and they return to Parent A on Sunday evening.
  • Week 2 [A]-[A]-[A]-[A/B]-[B]-[B/A]-[A]. Parent A has the children from Monday to Thursday afternoon or evening, just as in Week 1. Instead of the children coming back to Parent A on Sunday, they return on Saturday morning. This is so Parent A can have weekend time with the children.

The advantages to this schedule are numerous.

Time is divided equally between the parents. Parent B gets to see the children on some portion of fourteen out of every twenty-eight days.

  • The children are only out of the Parent A home for six days of every twenty-eight-day period. Because the children start in Parent A's home on Thursday and spend part of each Sunday or Saturday with Parent A, the children see Parent A for some portion of twenty-two of every twenty-eight days.
  • The children have a regular "transition day" during the school week. Every Thursday the children go to Parent B's residence. This gives Parent B the opportunity to participate in school-work and other activities. Thursday is an important day to prepare for tests and quizzes, so this should satisfy Parent B's desire to be a "real parent" as opposed to merely a weekend parent.
  • Midweek visitation is eliminated in favor of blocks of parenting time for each parent. There is no need for rushed visitation, fast-food dinners, or sloppy homework.
  • Because parenting time is distributed in blocks, each parent has "time on" and "time off" with respect to parenting responsibilities. This is great because when it is each parent's time for parenting, they can concentrate on the children. When it is their "off" parenting time, each parent can tend to their personal responsibilities, their social lives (which should be kept away from the children), and their shopping and personal chores.

There is a single drawback to this schedule: Parent A does not get a "full weekend" with the children, meaning that there is no weekend where Parent A gets to have a Friday night with the children. There is a way to deal with this facet of the schedule. It is called "being reasonable." If Parent A wants to spend a Friday night with the children, she calls Parent B in advance and requests the time. Parent B obliges because Parent B wants the children to do fun things and have fun experiences. Parent A then consents that on the next Week 1 (which is Parent B's longer block of time), Parent B can keep the children on the Sunday night they would ordinarily return and bring them to school on Monday morning so as to make up the missed sleepover.

Be Reasonable

When you are creating schedules, be open-minded. Do not be so quick to count the number of "sleepovers" as being that meaningful. The only useful thing you can do while your kids are sleeping is spend time figuring out how you are going to pay for your lawyer. Consider instead the quantity and quality of face-to-face time you will have with your children. When your children are awake you can tell them how much you love them, and until they are old enough to disappear with their friends and use your residence as a boardinghouse, you can spend your time playing with them and educating them. Those are the important moments, and that is the type of time and contact you should be seeking.

Quick Tips

  • There is no compelling research-based evidence that shows kids are better off when they spend the majority of time with one parent for the sole purpose of having a "home base."
  • Don't let your dislike of the co-parent determine your child's need to spend time with her. Visitation is not about you; it is about your children.
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