It’s a natural desire to want to see your child after a divorce or separation in the same manner and you saw before. The difficult truth is that both you and your former spouse will see them less frequently than before, and it tends to be a big adjustment for everyone involved. The process of drafting a visitation schedule can be very complicated and stressful, even when both parties are on good terms. What key factors should you always keep in mind? The type of custody you share (i.e. sole or joint custody) will play a role in your decisions, but there are many other considerations to mull over when drafting your schedule.
- What’s best for the kids?
Children of all ages can struggle in the midst of a divorce, and you’ll want to make the transition as smooth as possible. Ask yourselves if the schedule complements the child’s schooling, social life, activities, physical and mental health, and overall wellbeing. Keep in mind that routine and structure are critical to a child’s development. Make a concerted effort to put them at the forefront.
In that same spirit, do your best to minimize squabbles between you and the other parent. Kids are sensitive to conflict and won’t appreciate being stuck in the middle of a heated battle between two parents. Try to put your personal interests aside to reach a practical visitation agreement.
- How old are the kids?
You should of course consider your child’s well being before drafting the visitation schedule, but many parents fail to appropriately account for their child’s age in that calculation. Children have different needs at different ages. Babies and toddlers, for instance, thrive with consistent and predictable schedules, and they should have frequent contact with both parents in order to form a strong bond. Preschoolers have different social needs, benefiting from time with other children, but they can have trouble moving between homes. School age children and teenagers are the most adaptable, adjusting easily to different environments, routines, and parenting styles. They will need support from both parents in order to succeed in school and participate in extracurricular activities. Make sure you read up on your child’s age group and ensure your schedule can accommodate all of their needs.
- How will you plan holidays, vacations, and special occasions?
It may be hard to imagine a holiday or vacation without your child, but in all likelihood it’s a sacrifice you’ll have to make. It helps to get creative with your arrangement. You can alternate years for each parent to take the child on vacation; negotiate for specific holidays; or establish a set number of “vacation days” for each parent. You should also make provisions for unexpected events or special occasions. Events might come up that interfere with your visitation schedule, so you should work out a system for special requests.
- Where do you work?
Your employment situation can impact the flow of your visitation schedule, especially if one or both of you works odd hours. One parent might be a doctor on-call at a hospital, a security guard who works the night shift, or a member of the military. Whatever the case, your schedule should allow both parents to spend adequate time with the child without disrupting a parent’s work.
- Where do you live?
Divorce can often end in relocation for one or both parents, so you’ll want to account for travel distance in your visitation schedule. Travel can be taxing on children, and it can be hard to work around their school schedules as well as your work schedule. If both parents do their best to accommodate the other, the child will fare better.
After all of these considerations and more, you also have to decide how often your schedule will repeat. Visitation scheduling is one of the most challenging steps in the divorce or separation process. Experienced legal counsel, like the divorce attorneys at Pacific Cascade Family Law, can help you effectively communicate your needs to your former spouse. Contact us to see how our legal knowledge can benefit you and your child.