QUESTION: “How does a joint child-custody agreement usually work?”

You’ve been awarded joint custody. Now, you and your ex must figure out a fair way to divide your time with the children. Because each family is different, there is no “best” solution.  You will need to consider the following when creating your custody plan:

  • Each child’s age
  • Any special needs
  • Each parent’s work schedule
  • The children’s school schedules
  • The children’s extra-curricular activities
  • The distance between each parent’s homes
  • Vacations
  • Special events
  • Traffic patterns

Some families find that it is easiest for the children to stay at one home on school days and at another on weekends. There are advantages and disadvantages to this type of schedule. It keeps the routine consistent on school days and is convenient if one parent lives a significant distance from the school. However, school days tend to be hectic. The weekday parent may miss spending down time with the children. And, the time division is not equal.

While equal time is not a requirement, many families prefer to divide parenting time equally. Here are some sample schedules that allow parents to spend the same amount of time with the children:

Alternating Week Schedule: Children stay with each parent for seven days at a time. This allows for less disruption of the school week and works well when both parents live near the children’s school. However, parents may need to swap some weeks to allow for equal division of vacation time.

Alternating Weeks With an Evening Visit: This schedule is basically the same as an alternating week schedule; however, the child spends one evening each week with the other parent.

Alternating Weeks With a Mid-Week Overnight: This is another alternating-week schedule. But, in this case, the child spends one night at the other parent’s home. It may be a fixed night (always on Tuesday) or it may vary according to family schedules.

2-2-3 Day Rotation: In this type of plan, the child stays with Mom on Monday and Tuesday. She stays with Dad on Wednesday and Thursday. Then she spends a long weekend with Mom. The next week, the schedule is reversed. The child spends Monday and Tuesday with Dad, Wednesday and Thursday with Mom, and then goes back to Dad’s for the long weekend. This allows both parents to spend weekend time with the child, but distance from school and extra-curricular activities may still be a consideration.

3-3-4-4 Day Rotation: In this type of schedule, the children spend Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with one parent and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday with the other. They go back to first parent’s home for Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday and then spend Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the second parent. The advantage is that the children are in one home every Sunday through Tuesday and in the other on Wednesdays through Fridays. The only day that changes from week to week is Saturday. This allows a child to be involved in extra-curricular activities near each parent’s home: ballet at the studio near Mom’s house and volleyball at the park near Dad’s.

2-2-5-5 Day Rotation: This is similar to the 3-3-4-4 rotation, but there are three days that fluctuate from week to week: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

You may need to try several plans before you find a custody arrangement that works for your family. However, adjusting to a new schedule always takes time. Make sure that you give plan time to work before you abandon it.

If you and your ex can’t agree on a plan, a family court judge will decide for you.

Need help with a custody plan? The Philadelphia family law attorneys at Petrelli Previtera can help. Call us at 215-523-6900.