If you are planning on filing for divorce and have children in common with your spouse, there are certain legal requirements that you must meet as parents. One of the most complex and difficult to navigate is the creation of your parenting time schedule. This document, which must adhere to certain guidelines, will determine where your child lives and when. It sounds easy, but many parents find themselves overwhelmed, confused, and stressed while trying to balance the requirements with their needs, wishes, and best interests of their child. Start off in the right direction with the following information.
Parenting Time and Parenting Time Schedules
At its simplest definition, a parenting time schedule is a mutual agreement between both parties that outlines the duration and frequency of each parent’s physical time with their child. During that time, they are the caregiver who will meet their child’s physical, emotional, mental, and medical needs. They will make any and all non-significant decisions and be allowed to bond with their child without interference from the other parent. This also essentially means that the “visiting parent” will actively and fully meet their responsibility by showing up on time for pick-ups and drop-offs, including those that may be scheduled to occur at school or while at an extracurricular activity.
Creating a Parenting Plan that Works for Your Family
When developing a parenting time plan, parents will need to carefully consider their schedules. If, for example, one parent frequently travels out of town for work, or has a job with erratic hours, this should be factored in to the parenting time schedule. Also, keep in mind that your schedule for the school year, holidays, school breaks, and other extended breaks may also look very different from one another. For example, if one parent works more frequently in the summer and has a slower period around the fall and winter breaks, one parent may have more time during the holidays and less time in the summer.
Times of the year that may have different schedules (or should at least be considered) typically include:
- School Year – Typically, children do best when this schedule is fairly regular. However, some families may be unable to stick to a “regular” or traditional schedule. If you or your spouse have an erratic, irregular, or traveling schedule, a family law attorney can help you find creative solutions for your parenting time schedule;
- School Breaks – When children are out of school for summer, spring break, winter break, and other extended breaks, parenting time schedules often change. However, parents should still give some careful consideration as to whether or not a shift in the schedule would be detrimental to their child’s well-being. For example, children with special needs often thrive best when they know what to expect. A sudden shift in the parenting time schedule could cause undue stress;
- Holidays – Of all the decisions to make in a parenting time schedule, determining who will get which holiday is often one of the hardest. After all, birthdays, Thanksgiving, and the Independence Day only come around once a year. When struggling with decisions about the holidays, try to find common ground and find an arrangement that everyone can live with (i.e. alternating birthdays and holidays);
- Vacations – Family vacations are not just for single family units. Lots of divorced parents take their own, individual vacations with their child. Just remember that you have to agree upon who will take their vacation when, and for how long. Also, if you plan on going on an out-of-state trip, there may be some notification requirements that must be met. Your attorney can help you determine if and when these may apply to your situation; and
- Transportation – This can be one of the most complex elements of your parenting time schedule, especially if you switch off parenting time frequently throughout the week. At minimum, know who will pick up the child from school, who will drop them off, and what times these arrangements will be. If your child also has extracurricular activities, pick-up and drop-off times for these activities should be outlined as well.
Get Skilled Legal Assistance with Your Parenting Time Schedule
At Pucci|Pirtle, we have the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to help you effectively and efficiently create a parenting plan that will work for your family. As committed advocates, we stand beside you throughout the entire process. If an agreement cannot be reached, we will aggressively defend your rights and the best interests of your child. Ask how our Elgin, IL family law attorneys can assist with your unique situation. Call 847-426-1866 and schedule a consultation today.