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Coming up with a viable schedule in your parenting plan

As you came to the end of your marriage, you and the other parent may have vowed to work together toward creating a parenting plan that keeps the best interests of your children in mind. At the time, you may have felt that this was the hardest decision you needed to make when it came to your children. After all, it isn't always easy to set aside your emotions for your soon-to-be former spouse in order to work with your children's other parent.

Once you got into negotiations for your parenting plan, however, you realized that you had a larger and possibly more challenging, task ahead of you -- creating a schedule that works well for your children and for each of you. Since your children are the ones who will be going back and forth, you probably put their needs first, but you may not be entirely sure where to begin.

These factors could affect the schedule

You may want to take the following factors into consideration when creating a schedule in your parenting plan:

  • What kind of schedules do your children have? School age children often already have a fairly stringent schedule. Making exchanges at the end of the school day could make it easier on your children. Moreover, if the kids aren't morning people, it may be better to wait until the afternoon or evening to conduct an exchange.
  • Do your children participate in extracurricular activities? What kind of homework load does each of them ordinarily have? These factors could influence whether visits are feasible during the week.
  • How old are your children? The younger a child is, the more frequently he or she should have time with each parent. Older children and teenagers, however, may go longer between visits, especially if they have busy school and social lives.
  • What kind of temperament does each of them have? Some children need more structure and consistency than others do. Flexibility may not be good for a child who requires more structure, but may be okay with a more easygoing child. These factors need to be taken into consideration when devising a visitation schedule. 
  • Do you plan to give each child time alone with each parent? You may have taken time with children individually during the marriage in order to foster good relationships with each of them. There's no reason not to continue this tradition after the divorce.
  • What would your child prefer? For children who are old enough, you may want to ask them what type of schedule they would like to see. Of course, the final decision is up to you and the other parent.

After you and the other parent take these and any other considerations of the children into account, you should then look at the factors in your individual lives. If you create a schedule without looking at each of your schedules, you could be setting yourselves up for problems in the future.

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