FAQ: Understanding Child Custody Schedules and Step Up Parenting Plans

Sep 12, 2017

Life after divorce can be one of the most challenging times for a parent. Making decisions about where your children will live and how they will spend their time is one of the most emotionally difficult tasks you will face after separation. It is natural for parents to struggle with separating their personal feelings of anger or resentment toward their former spouse from their attempt to focus on the best interest of their children. However, with proper communication and set boundaries, co-parenting can be a positive experience!

Consistent, peaceful, and purposeful contact with your ex is essential to successful co-parenting. Drafting a detailed parenting plan outlining how you will share in your parenting obligations can help to alleviate conflict.

1. What is “Best Interest” as defined by the Family Code?

Family Code section 3011 is the foundation that establishes the best interest analysis used by judges when evaluating custody cases. Essentially, judges must consider the best interests of the children in reaching a conclusion about how parents will share time with their children. This legal standard focuses on numerous factors including the health, safety and wellbeing of the child. The court considers frequent and continuous contact and stability as paramount in making any determination of custody.

2. I’ve heard that courts favor the mother more when making a determination of custody, is that true?

Family Code Section 3011 begins with the presumption that both parents have an equal right to time with their minor children. The policy of the law in California is to allow the children frequent and continuing contact with both parents, so long as the children are safe in each parent’s care.

3. What is joint custody?

Joint custody has two parts: joint legal custody and joint physical custody.

Joint legal custody refers to both parents sharing the major decisions affecting the child, which can include medical care, psychological care, school decisions, extracurricular activities, and religious preference to name a few.

Joint physical custody refers to the custodial time spent with each parent. The amount of time is flexible, and can range from a moderate period of time for one parent, such as every other weekend, to a child dividing the time equally between the two parents’ homes. In situations where the time spent with both parents will be divided equally, it helps if the parents live close to one another.

4. What is a step-up parenting plan?

Step-up parenting plans are extremely common and allows children to become more familiar with the noncustodial parent in a safe, stable and consistent manner. Step-up parenting plans allow an increase in visitation as the child gets older and more familiar with living in two separate homes. A judge will often use this type of plan with a young child, especially an infant, where one parent must meet specific guidelines before getting more visitation or when the parents were not married and the child has not spent much time with the other parent.

Although the policy of the law in California is to allow the children frequent and continuing contact with both parents, the law first considers the children’s safety and stability when increasing custody and visitation.

5. What are common parenting plans?

There are various visitation schedules that afford flexibility and consistency for co-parenting effectively. Some of these options include every weekend visitation, week on-week off, and 2-2-3 visitation schedules.

6. What is an every weekend visitation schedule?

This is one of the simpler visitation schedules. The every weekend visitation schedule allows one co-parent to have primary physical custody of the child during the week for school purposes and the other co-parent to have physical custody of the child on the weekends.

Pros: It is a consistent schedule which makes it easy on both the co-parents and the child. It promotes stability and frequent contact with both parents.

Cons: Only one co-parent may have the child on weekends and only one co-parent may have the child during the week. This categorically separates parental obligations leaving one parent to do the not-so-fun activities such as homework and assigning chores while the other parent enjoys quality time on the weekends.

7. What is the week on – week off parenting plan?

The week on – week off parenting plan is also pretty straightforward. Parents alternate their custodial time with their children on a weekly basis. Parents will often include a weekday visitation in order to maintain contact throughout the week.

Pros: Alternating weeks in your custody plan creates consistent and repeating schedules. Repeating schedules often allow both co-parents and their child to quickly get into a routine, which will make the transition from a single to dual household that much easier for the child.

Cons: Alternating weeks in your custody plan means that you can go one full week before seeing your children. This may be fine for some children but for others it could be way too long. This typically depends on the age and maturity level of your child. Children in their early to late teens are able to better handle the alternating schedule.

8. What is the 2-2-3 visitation schedule?

The 2-2-3 visitation schedule is a common and practical option for co-parents who are implementing a 50/50 custody agreement and live within close proximity of one another. This type of visitation schedule allows one co-parent to have the child for the first two days of the week, then the second co-parent will have the child for the next two days of the week, and for the weekend the child will go back to the first co-parent. This type of custody schedule is considered an alternating schedule meaning that co-parent’s schedules will alternate every single week.

Pros: For young children, it is important to have contact with each parent more frequently. This parenting plan is recommended for younger children to ensure that frequent and consistent contact with both parents. Co-parents appreciate the alternating weekend schedule because it allows each parent to have custody of the children for a five-day stretch every two weeks. This allows for short vacations or an extended period of time where the children can enjoy quality time with that parent.

Cons: This schedule requires more back and forth during the week for co-parents, which can be challenging for more contentious cases. This plan also requires more commute time and more communication between the co-parents. The constant back and forth can disrupt the children’s routine, especially if parents have different expectations regarding homework, bedtimes, and extracurricular activities.

9. What is the best parenting plan for my family?

There is no “one size fits all” parenting plan for families as all children are unique and have varying needs based on their age, maturity level, and background.

Families can reach out to counselors, mediators and experienced family law attorneys to help draft a detailed parenting plan that can relieve any unnecessary stress, leaving you with more time to focus on your children.

At Provinziano & Associates we understand the sensitive and complex nature of child custody litigation and are happy to assist you with drafting a detailed parenting plan that works best for your family. We also know that many parents have to fight vigorously for their children as one parent may use time with the children as a weapon to hurt the other parent. Divorce and custody battles are often an emotional roller coaster, but with The Provinziano Legal Team on your side you can rest assured that your voice will be heard, that we will aggressively fight for you and your children, that we will take away much of the stress and worry, and that we will work tirelessly to and achieve the success you’re looking for in the courtroom.

By: Maria E. David, Esq.

© Alphonse F. Provinziano, Esq.