When you’re going through a divorce, your main concern is your children – and you probably already know that you’ll have to develop parenting schedules between you and your ex to ensure that they get plenty of time with both of you. You could benefit from using a parenting plan template (there’s one below) to make sure you’re covering all your bases when you’re working through child custody issues.
What Are Parenting Schedules?
A parenting schedule is a list of the days and times that you and your children’s other parent will share time with the kids. There’s no one-size-fits-all routine – every family is different – but it’s possible to work out a parenting schedule that gives your children plenty of time with you and your ex. You may have to be flexible, and you might even have to do some negotiating, but if you and your ex-spouse are committed to doing what’s best for your children, you can create the right parenting schedule for your kids.
Is a Parenting Schedule the Same Thing as a Parenting Plan?
A parenting schedule is part of a parenting plan. You can use this part of your plan to outline where your kids will be on which days (and even at which times). Parenting plans cover other important information, too.
What Does a Parenting Plan Address?
In California, a parenting plan addresses two main things: Where your children will spend their time (that’s the parenting schedule part) and how you and their other parent will share the rights and responsibilities of raising your children.
All parenting plans must include information on physical and legal custody. The term physical custody refers to where your children live, and legal custody refers to each parent’s rights and responsibilities when it comes to making decisions about a child’s:
- General welfare
- Religious upbringing
- Extracurricular activities
- Routine medical care and dental care
Your parenting plan will also need to include a parenting schedule, which you can create with your ex’s cooperation (check out the parenting plan template below for ideas).
Related: Child custody schedules
What is Reasonable Visitation in California?
Your parenting schedule might allow for “reasonable visitation.” When a schedule says that, it means the parents must be willing to talk to each other about times and days they’ll share the children – and both parents must trust each other to hold up his or her own end of the bargain. These open-ended orders allow parents to work things out between themselves.
However, for some people, that’s not enough. Reasonable visitation doesn’t work when one party is unreasonable – or when the parents routinely clash over simple matters. If there are disagreements or misunderstandings about one parent’s time with the children, these orders can cause serious problems that can hurt the kids.
More often, it’s better to create a parenting schedule that includes specific days and times that each parent will be with the children.
How Do I Change My Visitation Schedule in California?
It’s possible to change a parenting schedule – the courts are generally flexible as children get older and their needs change. In fact, some parents renegotiate their parenting plans every few years. If both parents agree on the changes, they can simply change their court order through an agreement – but if they can’t, one parent must file papers with the court to ask a judge to modify the order.
When you’re asking the judge in your case to modify your custody order, you must show:
- That there has been a significant change in circumstances since the court issued your last custody order
- You want the change to serve your children’s best interests
Your attorney can help you, whether you and your ex simply need to renegotiate or you must file a petition with the court.
Parenting Plan Template
Your Beverly Hills child custody attorney will draft your actual parenting plan to submit to the court, but you can use this template to create an outline that you can give to your lawyer. Use each of these sections to put together your plan:
- Legal custody
- Physical custody
- Parenting time agreement
- Transportation for visitation
- Travel with the children
- Holiday schedules
- Additional provisions
- Access to the children’s records
Here’s a closer look at each.
Outline specifically which parent is responsible for making decisions about your child’s healthcare, education, religious upbringing and other important matters. If you’ll share legal custody, you’ll need to let the courts know. (Many parents do share legal custody.)
Explain who will have physical custody of your children. If one of you will have your children 60 percent of the time and the other will have them 40 percent of the time, you can address that in your parenting time agreement. Many parents share physical custody with the children spending more time with one parent than the other.
Parenting Time Agreement
Your parenting time agreement falls under physical custody. You might create a schedule from scratch – or you might use one of several established visitation schedules to work something out for your family. Some of the most common parenting schedules include:
- Every weekend, in which one parent has the children throughout the week and the other gets them every weekend
- One week on, one week off, in which the parents alternate full weeks with the children
- 2-2-3, in which Parent A has the children for the first two days of the week, Parent B has them for the next two, and Parent A has them for the remaining three – and then the schedule starts over again with Parent B
Every family is different, though. You may need to adjust your own schedule so it works for your family. The key is really working out an arrangement that’s best for your kids – not necessarily for you – and being flexible enough to negotiate.
Related: Common child custody schedules
What About 730 Evaluations?
If you and your spouse can’t agree on a parenting plan – or parenting schedules – either of you can request a 730 evaluation from the court. The court can also order one without you requesting it. In a 730 evaluation, an independent evaluator will conduct research on your home and family life. The purpose is to create a recommendation to give to the court. Generally, judges rely heavily on the results of a 730 evaluation, which is conducted by a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or another professional.
During the 730 evaluation, the evaluator can:
- Conduct interviews with parents, children, siblings, stepparents, step-siblings and half-siblings
- Facilitate psychological testing
- Interview other people in the child’s life, such as therapists, doctors and even family friends
- Observe interactions between the parents and the children
- Review all relevant documents, such as school and medical records, police reports and other documentation that can help him or her make a recommendation to the court
- Conduct home visits
Related: 730 evaluations in California
Transportation for Visitation
Your parenting plan should address how your children will get back-and-forth between homes. This is particularly important if you and your ex don’t live near each other. You might mention things like:
- Each parent is responsible for picking up the children on their designated days
- Father will pick up the children for weekend visitation
- Mother will drop off children at school, and father will pick them up
Every parenting schedule is different, so yours may not say the same things – but transportation is definitely an important area to address.
Travel With the Children
Your parenting plan should cover your plans for traveling with the children – including when and where vacations will fit into the schedule.
You and your ex may decide to split holidays or take the kids for every other one. You can alternate years, too. Your holiday schedule might look like this:
- New Year’s Day: Father on even-numbered years and mother on odd-numbered years
- Memorial Day: Mother on even-numbered years and father on odd-numbered years
- Independence Day: Father on even-numbered years and mother on odd-numbered years
- Labor Day: Mother on even-numbered years and father on odd-numbered years
- Veterans Day: Father on even-numbered years and mother on odd-numbered years
- Thanksgiving: Mother on even-numbered years and father on odd-numbered years
- Christmas: Father on even-numbered years and mother on odd-numbered years
You can also include birthdays and other special occasions on your holiday schedule.
Access to the Children’s Records
Your parenting plan should, in addition to the parenting schedules, include information about who’s allowed to access the children’s medical, school and other records. If you’re sharing legal custody, it’s a good idea to share access to all your kids’ records, too. Even if you’re not sharing legal custody, your attorney may suggest that you allow each other access to important information about the children (although there are some circumstances where this is not appropriate).
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Parenting Schedules or Work Through a Parenting Plan Template?
If you’re a parent who’s going through a divorce, we may be able to help you. Call us at 310-683-4623 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today. We can answer all your questions and give you the legal guidance you need when it comes to child custody, child support, spousal support, and other divorce-related issues.