Divorce Parenting Plans That Work
More and more separated and divorced parents are opting to spend time with their children as often as possible. Managing this requires a parenting plan, part of the legal agreement (MOU) that spells out a clear, specific schedule for children as well as guidelines for each parent’s co-parenting responsibilities and role in decision making.
In my divorce mediation practice, I’ve seen several plan outlines that have been very useful to the families involved. A solid, workable plan is worth its weight in gold because it brings peace of mind and reduces stress.
In this third post in my series about parenting plans, I provide plan examples below. Please note, these are meant to be potential starting points. You will need to customize your parenting plan to meet your family’s unique personality and needs.
Parenting Plans Versus Custody Decisions
As explained in the first post in this series about parenting plans, “Creating a Good Divorce Parenting Plan for Your Children,” a parenting plan states when the children will be with each parent (parenting time), and legal custody is how major decisions concerning the children will be made.
A successful parenting plan includes the details about the logistics and other aspects that are designed with the children’s comfort, happiness, and well-being in mind.
That said, the best parenting plan is the one that works best for Mom and Dad.
In each plan below, M=Mom and D=Dad, which indicates in whose home the children will sleep each night.
50:50 Parenting Plans
The 50:50 parenting plan usually has equal overnights with each parent within every two-week period. There are several ways to configure the 50:50 plan and the three listed below are the most frequently used.
- 50:50 shared parenting works best when parents live within 10 miles of each other and have easy access to the school and bus transportation.
- Transition time is usually after work, or at 5:00 p.m. if parents and children have the day off.
- Attending extracurricular activities is another way for parents to see their kids.
2:2:3 Parenting Plan
2:2:3 Plan Highlights
- Works well with younger children (perhaps under age 8).
- Except for the weekend, neither parent goes more than 2 nights without seeing the kids.
- Parents often build in a quality time or meal for the weekend they are not with the kids.
- The quality time for the other parent can be established each Thursday night.
- Flipping Monday and Tuesday becomes routine for the kids.
5:2 Parenting Plan
5:2 Plan Highlights
- Works well with older kids (perhaps 9 and older).
- Each parent has five nights in a row.
- Parents usually build in at least 2 quality times with the children arranged the Sunday of every week.
- Parents can depend on a specific night to do their own activity.
Alternating Weeks Parenting Plan
Alternating Weeks Highlights
- Works well with teens.
- Parents usually build in at least three quality times with children (may be individually at these ages).
- Transition is Monday after school and allows for a long quality weekend.
Non-50:50 Parenting Plans
This type of plan occurs when a primary residential parent (PRP) has been established. (See Child Support-Part 1.)
Every Other Weekend (EOW) Parenting Plan
- Consider including Sunday night as part of the weekend.
- Sunday is an “easy” school night for children.
- The non-PRP usually has one or two dinners a week with the children. Or one overnight and one dinner per week.
Flexible Scheduling Parenting Plan (When one parent’s schedule varies a lot)
- Establish a two-week, one month, or six-week calendar in advance.
- Work around the parent’s work schedule.
A Word about Vacations and Holidays
There is a hierarchy of which special days are most important. The holiday schedule has highest importance, then vacation time, and then the parenting plan. In other words, settling holidays and vacation time can override the regular parenting plan schedule.
Holidays need to have a beginning and an end time for clarity.
- Consider starting all holidays the night before in order for everyone to have a leisurely wake-up and minimize transitions. For example, define Thanksgiving to start the Wednesday night before; Independence Day is July 3rd until the morning of July 5th.
- Consider whether you want to share the holiday and which part of the day is the “priority time.” For instance, Christmas morning and Thanksgiving afternoon/evening seem to be most desired. So alternating those time slots has a different impact than just alternating the holiday themselves.
- Consider making each parent’s birthday a holiday so there is no confusion bout how to handle them.
- When children are young, sometimes parents set a maximum number of consecutive nights in a row.
- “Vacation” is time when children and/or parents are off from work and school.
- Usually with 4-5 weeks’ notice to the other parent, a parent can plan on being able to have the time requested.
- Most parents like the idea of an annual bank of vacation days for planning purposes, for example, 14 or 21 days.
- How the vacation bank works: Let’s say your bank of vacation days is 14 days. You’ve made plans to take time off to spend it with the kids from Aug 1 to Aug 8. Let’s also say you would have had the kids anyway on Aug 1-2. Even so, all seven days get counted towards your allotment of vacation days, leaving you 7 more days for the rest of the year.
Successful Parenting Plans
Research has shown it’s important to remember a few key points when setting up and using parenting plans:
- Children at different ages have varying needs and differing abilities to navigate and cope with variations in changing families.
- Equal time with the children may not always be the best solution.
- Children’s development depends less on whether or not children sleep in two homes, than on the quality of the parenting.
- From time to time, review the arrangement and adjust as needed.
Resources About Parenting During Divorce
- Parenting Plans Part 1: Creating a Good Divorce Parenting Plan for Your Children
- Parenting Plans Part 2: The Top Dozen Parenting Issues in Divorce
- Parenting Plans Part 3: Divorce Parenting Plans That Work (this post)
- Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce (aff) by Joanne Pedro Carroll
- Planning for Parenting Time: Arizona’s Guide for Parents Living Apart (free downloadable PDF). This excellent document provides sample plans and dicusses the pros and cons of each.
- Parenting Plan Checklist
- Parenting Checklists
- Downloadable and Printable Parenting Tools
- Household Safety Checklists
- Divorce Checklists and Worksheets
- Sample Parenting Plans for Angry, Distant and Cooperative Divorces
- Emery’s Alternative Parenting Plans (Child Custody Schedules)
- New Research Insights into Guidance about Parenting Plans