Where Will Your Children Spend Their Time?
For many co-parents, scheduling their time with the kids is gut-wrenchingly difficult. They never had to do this before when they lived as a family, nor did they have to assume both parental roles when they were with their children. So this is a tender topic and mediators know this.
Before delving into this, a few things to keep in mind:
1. Children do not like to stay still. They are balls of energy and want to keep doing things. They are not like a ceramic cat who will sit wherever you put it and keep you company.
2. Since they learned to say “no” to you, they have been busy unconsciously or subconsciously trying to separate from you, to become their own selves.
3. The older they get, the more important their own circle of friends is to them, and the less time they want to spend with adults.
4. As they get into their teenage years, the Clark County Family Court recognizes a principle known as teenage discretion, meaning the closer they get to the age of majority, the more authority they have to decide about where they spend their time. So even though it’s scheduled, they can decide not to go to Mom’s or Dad’s this weekend.
Please be mindful of these four points when you are negotiating physical custody of the kids and where they will spend their time. Your children’s needs should be given a high priority.
Family Court in Clark County, Nevada, shows a tendency to favor joint physical custody, if there are no extenuating circumstances. This makes a lot of sense, because the court, where possible, wants to keep both parents in the children’s lives. It does not necessarily mean that each parent has them for equal numbers of days. [That is pretty hard to do in years that have 365 days.] To satisfy the joint custody goal, the court allows the co-parents to have the children anywhere from 40% to 60% of the time. So if Isabella is with Mom 60% of the time and with Dad the rest of the time, they have joint physical custody of their child.
Another caveat: the fact that a parent has the child for a certain amount of time does not preclude the parent’s mother or aunt or babysitter from minding the child because that parent has to work. It is not a requirement that the custodial parent must be physically present during the time the child is scheduled to be with them. So it would be wise not to get on your high horse complaining that your ex isn’t even there when the children are supposed to be with him.
Some parents are happy with one week on/one week off. The child changes residences every week. This makes sense if the child is very young and not in school, or if the child is in school and the parents both live in the same school district. It has little chance of success if the child is in school, Mom lives in Boulder City and Dad is residing in Summerlin. Clearly, it would be too disruptive to the child’s life. (See point 3 above) It would be even more disruptive if there were multiple children in different schools (e.g. one in grade school, one in junior high).
It’s possible for parents to work out a shared time with the children. That means the kids are with each parent some days, but the actual number of days is not necessarily the same. Although it presents some difficulties keeping track of the children’s schedules, calendars in each home can help alleviate that. So can subscribing to Our Family Wizard (https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/), an online tool that helps, as the program’s creators state, to schedule child custody and track parenting time, share important family information, manage expenses as well as create an accurate, clear log of divorce communication. The advantage of this form of shared time allows parents to have different work schedules or abilities to take on the responsibilities of parenting but still participate in raising the children.
Some parents are more comfortable with the children staying in one place during the week and spending alternating weekends and perhaps one overnight stay during the week. It gives the kids stabilization--they’re at home most of the time and don’t get their schooling interrupted. And for parents with jobs that demand a lot of their time, this is very helpful. Both parents get weekend time to do the fun stuff with the children, but remember point 3 above: as they age, children want to spend more time with their friends than their parents.
There are some families where, for important reasons, one parent has the children all the time. These situations are best resolved by a court, because they often involve addictive behavior and/or physical and verbal abuse. Since evidence must be submitted and evaluated to prove such allegations, they are not appropriate for mediation, because the mediator is not a judge.
When you and your ex agree on a parenting plan good for the two of you and your children, keep in mind that it is not necessarily written in stone. You two can change it if you agree. It might be helpful to experiment for some time period, so you can see what works and what doesn’t for your particular situation. It is truly up to you to determine what experiences are the most important for you to share with your children. Then try to maximize those experiences for the both of you, because while you may no longer be in a relationship, you will always be Mom and Dad to them.