There is no one-size-fits-all child custody schedule since the needs differ from one child to another, and by age as well.
Therefore, developing a child custody schedule is not a walk in the park. You may need a lot of consultation to come up with the best schedule that would fit your child at his or her age, and one that can also work for both of you as parents.
Parents undergoing divorce or separation are encouraged to come up with a parenting plan that works in the best interests of the child. This will guide how each parent will spend time with the child during the weekdays and on the weekends. This can be done with the help of a mediator or a specialist or the parents can agree to come up with a schedule without the involvement of a third party.
A visitation schedule is inevitable and necessary for any type of child custody and it can be drafted best, based on the age of the child since the needs of a child vary with the age.
What Are the Different Types of Custody?
Before we discuss the schedules, it is important to know the different custody arrangements as set out by the law. In this regard, there are four types of child custody. These include:
- Physical custody– refers to a place where a child lives regularly. Both parents can share physical custody where a child can spend some time with one parent, and the rest of the time with another parent as captured in the schedule.
- Sole custody– sole custody comprises sole legal and sole physical custody. In sole physical custody, a child lives or stays with one parent but the other parent may have a reasonable visitation time.
In sole legal custody, one parent is responsible for making important decisions that affect the child.
- Joint custody– In this type of custody, both parents collaborate in making decisions that affect the child. When there are major decisions to be made, both parents must agree before the decisions are implemented.
This type of custody also focuses more on lifestyle decisions rather than living arrangements or parenting schedules.
- Shared custody– in shared custody, just like in joint custody, both parents are involved in the decision-making on matters that affect the child, and also the time spent caring for the child. This is where parenting schedules are mostly emphasized.
Drafting a Child Custody Schedule by Age
Age is an important consideration when drafting a child custody schedule. As we mentioned, parents need to negotiate and come up with an agreement on how to share time with the child or children. Failure to agree will mean that all the decisions will be made by the judge for the best interests of the child.
If you are a parent and looking for ideas on how to make the best schedule, this guide will help you to work together with your ex-spouse in coming up with a schedule that is in the best interests of the child. It is worth noting that the needs of children vary with age and thus the need to have a schedule that works for different ages.
Of course, circumstances might dictate the need for modifications in the future but what is important to consider is NOW, and what best fits the child.
Custody Schedule for 0 – 12 Months
This is the age when the child is developing the bond with the parents and others attached to him or her. A child can develop some love and trust in the people around and it is an important stage for the parents to bond with the child. This is part of social and emotional development and parents’ presence in a child’s life at this age is so vital in a child’s development.
At this infant age, the child will get attached and bond with the parents the way the parents play, cuddle, hold, and interact with him or her. Therefore, when coming up with a schedule for an infant at this age, it is important to understand that a child needs to bond well with both of you and also needs to breastfeed.
A schedule for a child between 0 – 12 months old should give enough time for the child to spend with both parents while not disrupting the child’s routine such as the sleeping time during the day. In addition to that, if a parent does not maintain constant contact with the child at that infant age, a child can easily lose attachment. Therefore, it is good to have a schedule that gives both of the parents a consistent meeting with the child.
For the best interests of the child, the child at this age should live in one place with one parent, and the other parent should have frequent visits. Since at this age, the child is likely to be breastfeeding, then living with the mother would be appropriate, then the father gets frequent visits.
Custody Schedule for 1 – 3 Years
At this age, the child has developed object permanence and he or she knows when one parent is not available at home, even when the parent goes for a week without showing up. Children at this age need love, warmth, and affection from their parents.
Of course, a child within this age cannot make a mature decision, and therefore, parents should come up with schedules that are in the best interests of the child or children by understanding their needs and feelings. This is the age again where the children are active and need more play. Therefore, parents should have a schedule that will enable the child to have a good time with each parent.
So that you don’t disrupt their emotional state and anxiety, the best arrangement would be to drop off the child at the other parent’s place so that he or she doesn’t feel much distracted when the other parent comes to pick him or her.
Overnight visits can also work since at this age, a child can adapt and that can be a good point to draft a routine schedule where the child would stay aware of when the next visit should be. Depending on the nature of the parent’s work schedules, a good schedule for this age should also consider the child’s needs, curricular, and extracurricular activities.
If the parents are living close to each other, then alternating visits throughout the week may work for both the child and the parents.
Custody Schedule for 4 – 11 Years
This middle childhood is where there are a lot of changes that happen in the life of the child. These are emotional and social changes. At this age, the child begins to show some independence, playing alone in the field, begins to understand himself or herself, pays attention to teamwork and friendship, and a desire for likes and acceptance by peers.
In addition to that, a child within this age can begin to talk about their experiences and feelings, and sometimes, their preferences may have little impact in court depending on the state.
Creating a schedule for this age would need to factor in the child’s schooling and extra-curricular activities. The schedule is also determined by where the parents live and if they live too far from each other or even different countries or states, alternating schedules between schooling and holidays may work better.
If you and your ex-spouse live close to each other, you can have an alternating schedule and at this age, the child will not have a problem visiting any parent at any given time. However, the schedule must work in the best interests of the child and should not burden the child with too many disruptions from their normal routines.
Custody Schedule for 12 – 17 Years
This is the age where the kid can make his or her decisions. The preference of the child at this age can be seriously considered when it comes to matters of child custody. Most courts would go with the child’s preference and just like the courts would do, as parents, you should also give the children at this age the freedom to make their decisions without interference.
The child may want to spend more time with one parent than with the other or even spend all the time with one parent. If the child is of age, then you as parents should listen and understand the needs of the child, then come up with a schedule that matches their preferences.
The child custody schedule, as we mentioned, needs a lot of work and considerations of many factors. Both parents should negotiate and come up with a schedule that does not interfere with the best interests of the child, but rather, one that satisfies all the parties; the parents, and the child.
Also worth noting is that the needs of children vary with age. Therefore, whether you are working with a counselor, a mediator, an attorney, or just with your ex-spouse, you should understand the needs of the children at a certain age bracket so that you can come up with a schedule that would suit their needs.