After separation and divorce, the children’s living arrangements can be time consuming and often costly for parents not to mention the emotional strain it puts on the family including the children.
Agreeing on the amount of time the children get to spend with each parent can be difficult to start with and then, you must put that agreement into practice. Sometimes, a plan that looks good on paper isn’t really the best routine or schedule for your family.
Here are 5 different options for children’s living arrangements that might work for your family.
This arrangement will allow the children to have equal time with each parent on an alternating basis of 7 days each week.
Generally, changeovers happen on a weekend but it’s important to consider a day that is convenient for not only the parents, but the children as well. It can be stressful for children when changeover occurs on a day that they have music lessons in the morning, then school, then they go to sports , and in the middle of all of that they have to worry about packing their bags to go back to mum’s place.
For this a week on week off parenting arrangement to work, it is essential the parents live relatively near one another so that the children can have the same access to their schools, friends and extracurricular activities.
Alternating Weeks with a Visit
For some families, going one week with only seeing one parent does not work. An option around this is to arrange a schedule where each parent visits the children during their “week off”.
An example of this would be if the children had been picked up by their mother on Friday after school were living with her for the week, their father might come and visit on Monday afternoon. And vice versa while the kids were staying at their father’s house
Another alternative to a week-by-week arrangement where the level of care is still equal is a two-two-three schedule.
This would mean the children have a fortnightly schedule where they live with one parent two nights, the other parent two nights, and back with the first parent for three nights in one week, and then vice versa the following week. One system which typically works well for this arrangement is:
Week 1: Week 2:
Parent 1: Monday and Tuesday; Parent 2: Monday and Tuesday;
Parent 2: Wednesday and Thursday; Parent 1: Wednesday and Thursday;
Parent 1: Friday – Sunday Parent 2: Friday – Sunday
This arrangement allows the children to have a whole weekend with each parent.
How effective this arrangement is for your family will heavily depends on the how old the children are and how much pressure moving between homes so often will put on them.
This option would only work when the parents live very close by (as in a mere matter of minutes), otherwise, the time spent travelling between houses would add up quickly.
When parents live in different cities or a considerable distance from each other, the best system for the children might be that they live with one parent during the school term and the other parent during school holidays.
Whether the child travels to the second parent during the holidays or the parent travels to the child will likely be dependent on the ages of the children and the locations of the parents
This arrangement would mean the children live with one parent and spend time with their other parent every alternative weekend, usually from Friday after school until Sunday evening or Monday morning.
Once upon a time, this approach was the go-to arrangement for parents, but it has become increasingly less popular, with its effects being one parent is known as the ‘fun parent’ and the other parent having the daily responsibility of the children. In time, this can fracture the children’s relationship with their primary parent. However, for some families this approach is suitable, especially if one parent’s work schedule does not allow for week on week off arrangements.
Other Factors to Consider
Each family has unique needs, and the children’s living arrangements should accommodate the family’s commitments and lifestyles.
The focus should always be to have as little disruption on the children’s lives as possible whilst still allowing them access to each parent. It is essential that the schedule aligns with school hours and extra-curricular activities.
Flexible working hours for parents are of course an advantage, but this is not always possible for many families. As such, the schedule should acknowledge and accommodate parents’ work hours and the travel time it takes between work, home and the other parent’s home.
Sometimes, parents get so caught up in the day-to-day living arrangements they forget to consider special occasions and Holidays. there is no single right way to arrange time spent with each parent during holidays/special occasions, but some ideas might be:
- Holidays such as Christmas/New Year’s/Easter may be arranged on an alternating basis from year to year;
- Alternatively, where parents live in close proximity, from Christmas Eve until midday Christmas day with one parent, and from midday Christmas day until Boxing day with the other. Parents might also like to alternate this arrangement from year to year so that each parent can spend Christmas morning and Christmas eve with the children from time to time;
- If the children are not with the mother on Mother’s Day, then time with the mother from 9am-5pm;
- If the children are not with the father on Father’s Day, then time with the father from 9am-5pm;
- Time with the parent they are not living with on the children’s/parent’s birthdays where possible.
The regular living arrangements may also be altered during school holiday periods where families see fit.
At the end of the day, the crucial aspect children’s living agreements is that all decisions are made in the children’s best interest.
If you are unable to agree to the parenting arrangements after separation, Family dispute resolution is a great place to start. This is a process in which a family dispute resolution practitioner, independent of all the parties, helps parents resolve some or all their disputes with each other during and after separation and divorce.
Keir Steele Waldon Lawyers have a strong focus on dispute resolution and mediation, to help you reach a resolution without the stress and cost of going to Court. We will explore with you all and every opportunity to try to reach agreement. Court proceedings are a last resort when agreements cannot be reached.