Child custody during the school year often looks different than it does during the summer months. In the summer, kids are more likely to spend more time with the parent who does not have primary custody. Suddenly, instead of working around two sets of firmly set schedules, there are three or more schedules to contend with.
If one of the parents needs to move out of state, this too needs to be considered in order to make it possible for both parents to play a healthy role in their child's life. Also, as a child gets older, they will develop more of their own extra-curricular interests, and may start to have a stronger opinion on where they want to be.
It's for these reasons and others that child custody arrangements are often revisited when it is time to head back to school. Here are some suggestions on how to address parenting time issues during the school year.
Plan around the school calendar
The school year must be considered when developing a parenting plan. Many schools let the kids off for a couple days during conference time. Some take a week for the winter holidays and another week in the spring. Some take longer. There's also quarter or semester breaks. It's a good idea to plan for unplanned breaks, such as when a child is ill, or if the school is closed due to bad weather.
In many joint custody situations, either parent may be asked to be available in any of these situations. It's important to find a fair way to share both the fun vacation time, as well as the not so fun little emergencies (like sick days). For example, if both parents live near each other, one parent could be assigned to handle emergencies the first 15 days of the month. The other parent could be the primary "on call" parent for the remainder of the month. Whatever the arrangement is, it should be as consistent as possible, so the child has a sense of what to expect.
Create rules for the holidays
Where kids spend their holidays is a common sticking point for many divorced families. Some trade off taking Thanksgiving and Christmas, or even try and find a way for kids to spend the holiday with each parent on the same day. If travel is part of the holiday celebration, it is important to work out a fair compromise that allows for both parents to spend special holiday time with the kids, without asking that the kids miss out on new opportunities.
Whether it is soccer practice, music lessons, or a part time job, a child's after school schedule can start to infringe on time with both parents. These schedules need to be examined as well. Neither parent should be forced to give up more time than the other.
Being a parent isn't easy, and balancing the co-parenting duties with another person makes the task even harder. These tips can help you understand the different dilemmas that may arise and how to address each of them in your custody arrangement. As always, it is essential to involve your lawyer when you make changes to a custody plan.