Child Custody And Parenting Plan Options (For Children Of School Age)
The following child custody and parenting plan timesharing options are derived from materials by and are presented with the assistance (and permission) of, internationally renowned divorce researcher, clinical psychologist, family mediator and child custody and parenting educator, Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D. These materials, a web exclusive to our site, have been recognized as a “Best of the Net” child custody resource.
Since 1970, Dr. Kelly has researched, written and lectured about children’s adjustment to divorce, child custody and access issues, divorce and child custody mediation, and the implications of child development research to child custody and parenting plans. She is the author of several seminal books — including the ground-breaking resource text Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce (see our website’s Recommended Books re Colorado Divorce & Colorado Child Custody for our review and a link for ordering).
These options reflect Dr. Kelly’s view of what’s the latest in divorce and clinical research tells us about some common approaches to divorced or separated parents sharing parenting time with their school-age children.
How To Use And Consider These Options In Child Custody/Parenting Time Planning
Dr. Kelly reminds parents and divorce professionals that these are not intended as suggested child custody or parenting guidelines. They are instead a menu of scheduling options (addressing different child development and divorce research findings and issues). In determining the appropriateness of these options for their parenting or child custody plan, parents should consider carefully their family’s particular background, circumstances, needs and preferences.
Mediation is, of course, all about discussing and finding the right approach for your family’s approach to child custody plans and timesharing — as you and your spouse or co-parent consider many factors together to arrive at a mutual future vision of your parenting.
- By clicking at the following link, you can print a formatted version of these Parenting Plan (Child Custody) Options for Children of School Age for your reference and discussions of what might work best for your Colorado family. (This is a larger file. If you have a slower internet connection, you may wish to right click and “save this target” or download this larger Adobe file to your hard drive, and then double-click on the file to open it. The Adobe software is free; see more complete instructions in our Tools & Forms section.)
Note: We are also privileged to host on another page of our website, divorce and children expert Robert Emery Ph.D.’s child custody and parenting time alternative schedules, as recommended for parents’ varying “divorce styles” as well. Dr. Emery’s parenting plans also include suggestions for younger children not yet of school age.
Eight Child Custody Plan Timesharing Options (Children of School Age)
Plans Legend And Explanation
“First parent” (colored purple, the darker color) means the parent with whom the children presently spend the greater number of overnights. “Second parent” (colored green, the lighter color) means the parent with whom the children presently spend the lesser number of overnights.
Each graphic represents a two week period of timesharing. The fraction shown represents the second parent’s proportion of overnights in a four week period, with that particular option.
With plans providing for equal time, parents are identified as “Parent A” and “Parent B” and colored purple and green, respectively.
Custody Plan Options
Option 1: Every Other Weekend
Friday 6:00 p.m. to Sunday 6:00 p.m.
This parenting plan option establishes 12 days separation from the second parent. Divorce research indicates that this is too long for many children, and may diminish the second parent’s importance to the children — with fewer opportunities for involvement in their day-to-day, school and homework activities. In addition, this option provides little relief to the first parent from children’s responsibilities. This parenting plan option may be preferred, however, given the parents’ history of involvement with the children, available time for parenting, present parenting resources, or, as a transitional approach to timesharing.
Option 2: Every Other Weekend Plus Midweek Visit
Friday 6 p.m. to Sunday 6 p.m., with every Wednesday 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This parenting plan option limits separation from the second parent to seven days. Adding the midweek transition could allow for more conflict on the transition back to the first parent’s home. Some second parents describe the evening only visit as too rushed with less time to adequately supervise homework and to “settle in.” This option may be one of a few workable ones with second parents having difficult work schedules, especially those with very early hours.
Option 3: Every Other Extended Weekend
(Friday 6 p.m. to Monday 8 a.m.)
This parenting plan option with its more expansive weekend for the second parent reduces the opportunity for parental conflict, and with one less transition, minimizes stress for the children. This option generally is not workable if the second parent resides far from the child’s school.
Option 4. Every Other Weekend Plus Midweek Overnight
Friday 6 p.m. to Sunday 6 p.m., with Wednesday 5 p.m. to Thursday 8 a.m.
This parenting plan option limits separation from the second parent to six days. It also allows for a broader opportunity for the second parent to supervise homework, and to participate in bedtime and waking rituals. The option’s transition at school after the midweek overnight avoids parental conflict. The midweek overnight also affords the first parent a regularly scheduled break in caretaking responsibilities.
Option 5. Every Other Extended Weekend Plus Midweek Overnight
Friday 6 p.m. to Monday 8 p.m., with Wednesday 5 p.m. to Thursday 8 a.m.
This parenting plan option mirrors Option 4, but with a longer weekend, thus conferring more schoolwork and activity responsibility on the second parent. Again, the school or day care pick ups and drop offs limit further, the opportunity for face-to-face parental conflict.
Option 6. Every Other Extended Weekend With Split Midweek
Friday 6 p.m. to Monday 8 a.m., alternating; plus with Parent A, every Monday after school to Wednesday 8 a.m.; with Parent B, every Wednesday after school to Friday 8 a.m.
This parenting plan option presents a two day/two day/five day/five day approach to timesharing, and limits separation from the other parent to five days (generally tolerated by children ages five or older). All transitions can take place at school or day care to eliminate the opportunity for parental conflict. By establishing a consistent midweek residence routine, both parents get both midweek and weekend time allowing full involvement in their children’s work and play, and permitting relief from parenting on a predictable basis.
With this option (and with options 5, 7 and 8), it is important and desirable for the children to have clothing at both homes, and the materials and equipment that make their lives work well. Despite the number of transitions, many school age children (especially those 6 or 7 years of age or older) find this parenting plan option satisfying, but it may be inappropriate with children with difficult temperament or learning disabilities.
Option 7. Every Weekend Split (alternating) and Every Midweek Split (assigned)
- Friday 6 p.m. to Saturday 6:00 p.m. (shown), or to Sunday 8:00 a.m, week one;
- Saturday 6:00 p.m. or Sunday 8:00 a.m. to Monday 8:00 a.m., week two; plus with Parent A, every Monday after school to Wednesday 8:00 a.m.;
- With Parent B, with every Wednesday after school to Friday 8:00 a.m.
This parenting plan option limits separation from the other parent to three days, but imposes more transitions. It may be more appropriate for preschool children than Option 6, and is sometimes found particularly workable as an interim schedule until children are five or six years of age.
Option 8. Every Other Week
(Friday 6:00 p.m. to following Friday 8:00 a.m.)
This parenting plan option imposes seven days separation from the other parent, often quite difficult for children younger than six or seven years of age. It eliminates the opportunity for face-to-face parental conflict by minimizing transitions, and allows both parents and mature children to “settle” into a routine. The children’s cyclical residence can, of course, complicate management of scheduled lessons, activity commitments and day care arrangements. Some adolescents may even prefer a schedule with two-week blocks at each household.
Note: changing households on Friday after school often works better than on the traditional Monday after school approach (allowing for a “winding-down” at the time of transition, rather than requiring “gearing-up” at that time).
Use Of The Phrase Child Custody In Colorado
Child custody, custody, custodian, visitation — all are words which create confusion and distort the real issues of how parents should best share time with (and even make decisions regarding) their children. As most Colorado mediators and divorce professionals, we don’t use them, and the more progressive and enlightened Colorado child custody and divorce laws (and laws of some other states) have abandoned them as well in favor of phrases such as timesharing, decision-making and parental responsibility.
Only because we are so often asked about Colorado child custody information, have we reluctantly included these popular phrases in this section of our website. (Please see our further discussion about the new Colorado law’s terminology at the Questions – Why Not Use Child Custody or Visitation Language in Discussing Colorado Child Custody Plans or Issues? section of our website.)
Mediation Of Colorado Child Custody/Parenting Plans
Regardless of the legal status of their relationship, parents (like diamonds) are “forever.”
Parents often find it helpful or necessary to reconsider and update their child custody, timesharing or parenting plan agreements to reflect the changing needs of their children. And, given the ongoing nature of their relationship, many parents find family mediation especially well-suited as a positive process to help them communicate effectively and to resolve efficiently divorce, child custody, timesharing, parenting plan and other parenting disputes.
For more information about mediation as a powerful alternative to adversarial Colorado child custody, divorce or parenting litigation, see our site’s Why Choose Divorce Mediation and (Colorado Divorce & Mediation) Questions & Myths sections.