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If you’re like many parents, one of the hardest parts of your divorce is creating a custody schedule. How can you ensure that you and your kids’ other parent both have enough time with the children – and more importantly, how can you create a schedule that serves your kids’ best interests?

Check out these five tips to create child custody schedules that can help you do what’s best for your family.

5 Tips for Creating Successful Custody Schedules

There are several types of custody schedules – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for every family. The bottom line is that the schedule you work out with your ex should be something you can all live with, and that serves your child’s best interests. You can use these five tips for creating child custody schedules that will work for your family:

  1. Be willing to compromise
  2. Be clear and kind about your concerns
  3. Respect your kids’ needs
  4. Consider what your children want
  5. Use only one form of communication with your ex

Here’s a closer look at each.

#1. Be Willing to Compromise 

There’s a good chance that you and your ex don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, and that extends to child custody, too. That’s okay – as long as you’re both willing to compromise to help your children. If one of you refuses to budge, you’re not going to be able to come up with a plan that works for your whole family; one of you is going to have to give in or you’ll have to allow the judge to create a custody schedule for you. Your attorney might suggest that you try mediation to reach common ground – but even if your lawyer doesn’t suggest it, it’s definitely worth looking into.

#2. Be Clear and Kind About Your Concerns

If you have valid concerns about your ex’s ability to parent your children or to meet his or her obligations in a child custody schedule, it’s okay to voice them. You should be very clear and use data to back up what you’re saying. For example, if you don’t believe your ex will be available to pick up your children on Sunday mornings because he’s in a band that plays every Saturday night, make that clear – but do it in a way that allows him to have some say. You might try something like, “I know that you play most Saturday nights, so maybe we could alternate Sunday mornings so you have a chance to get some rest.”

If you have other concerns, such as those about excessive drinking or drug use, you need to point them out immediately. It can be very difficult to change child custody schedules once a judge has signed off on them, which means you need to address these things now.

#3. Respect Your Kids’ Needs

Your kids need to know that you and your ex both love them, and that you both want to be part of their lives. Even the state of California recognizes that children benefit most from frequent and continuing contact with both parents, so your custody schedule should aim to provide that for them. 

#4. Consider What Your Children Want

While young children can’t really verbalize what they want in a custody schedule, older children can – and if they have a preference, or if a certain schedule will be easier on them, it’s worth exploring. For example, a very young child who’s used to one primary caregiver may benefit from a step-up parenting plan in which the non-primary caregiver gets frequent but short periods of time with the child. A teen may find it easier to stay in one home during the school week and have weekends with the other parent, or he or she might prefer something different. 

Related: Understanding child custody and step-up parenting plans

#5. Use Only One Form of Communication With Your Ex

If you and your ex-spouse can’t communicate well, you’re not alone. In cases like this, it’s important that you stick to one method of communication, such as text or email. That way, you have a written record of what each of you said, so you can look back to previous communications for reference (and you can share these communiques with your attorney if it becomes necessary).

Custody Schedules: The Basics

Custody schedules are part of a parenting plan – and parents have the right to come up with their own during divorce. When couples can’t agree, the judge assigned to the case will implement a custody schedule. Unfortunately, because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, the standard custody arrangement the court orders may not be what’s best for your family. That’s why it’s so important to try to work with your ex to determine what will work for everyone involved. 

Custody schedules should detail how the parents will share time with the child on:

  • Weekdays
  • Weekends
  • During school breaks
  • Holidays
  • Special occasions
  • Vacations

There are several types of “standard” arrangements, but you and your ex-spouse are entitled to come up with your own variations. Some of the most common include:

  • Week-on, week-off child custody schedules, which have the children with one parent one week and alternate to the other parent the next
  • Every weekend, in which one parent has the children during the week (Monday through Friday) and the other parent has the children every weekend
  • The 2-2-3 custody schedule, in which the children spend two days with one parent, two days with the other, and then three with the first parent – and then the schedule starts over

These are some of the most common custody schedules, but many families find that small variations make them work even better.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Custody Schedules?

If you’re going through a divorce, we can help. Call us at 310-683-4623 to schedule a consultation with a Los Angeles child custody attorney now – we’ll be happy to answer your questions about custody schedules and visitation, as well as other divorce-related matters.