Divorce is hard for all parties involved, but particularly so for children of the marriage. So, when parents are separating and trying to work out visitation plans for the children to still be able to have access to both parents, there are a few factors that should be taken into account to make the transition easier for the children.
1) Consider school or summer schedules.
The school calendar is not flexible, so the visitation plan must necessarily become flexible to accommodate it. Summer schedules can be looser, especially if the children are not enrolled in any formal camp or other activities. Either way, it is essential for parents to work out details such as where the children will be spending school nights, who will be picking them up from school or the bus stop, who will be dropping them off, etc. Since school may represent the one constant in their life when everything else is changing, it is vitally important to make sure their access to school and their friends is maintained.
2) Negotiate holidays.
This has the potential to be a minefield, particularly if big family gatherings are the norm. However, it is still possible to craft something that honors this tradition and accommodates the new reality. Consider alternating holidays (one parent gets Thanksgiving, one gets Christmas) or, if you are on good enough terms with the other parent, sharing the time with the child. Some of this may also be determined by work schedules of the parents, particularly if one parent does shift work or is otherwise away for holidays. In this case, alternative arrangements should be made to accommodate that parent and give them the opportunity to have a holiday as well with the child.
3) Review work schedules.
Just as school schedules are fixed, so often are parent work schedules. Both parents should review their work schedules and identify any flexibilities so as to be able to allow both parents to have the maximum amount of time with each parent. Maybe a parent can take advantage of a telework option a few days a week so they can have the flexibility to pick up the child from school. Perhaps another parent can try to get moved from the night shift to the day shift.
4) Allow for other forms of visitation.
In this day and age, it is almost effortless to get in touch with someone who is not in the same room as you are. Parents should consider being able to contact their children via phone, Skype, or some other app outside of their physical visitation time. This may be particularly helpful to parents who have to travel often or are unable to host the child often.
5) Consider other factors.
A small child will have different needs from both parents than a teenager just as an elementary school-aged child will be different that one in middle school. It is important to take the age factor into account when determining visitation, particularly for older children who may have extracurricular activities that they are involved in. Other factors to consider include how far apart the parents live, and other children that either parent may have at any given time.
Creating a successful visitation plan is not easy, but with skilled, sympathetic counsel like Melissa Pearce on your side, it can be a little less daunting. Contact us today to get started.