There are many factors to consider when you and your soon-to-be former spouse are deciding on a custody and parenting time schedule that is the best fit for your children’s needs. In the past, a typical custody arrangement would state that the children would live with one parent for the majority of the time (often the mother) and grant visitation to the other parent every other weekend. While that more traditional parenting may still work well for many families, there is not a “one size fits all” parenting plan. These days, co-parents and courts are finding that there are alternative schedules that are a better fit for the children involved, and for the parents. One such alternative schedule is joint physical custody—also referred to as an equal 50/50 parenting time split.
What Is a 50/50 Parenting Schedule?
A 50/50 parenting time schedule refers to the physical custody schedule either agreed to by the parents or as ordered by the court. With a 50/50 parenting time schedule, each parent is granted an equal amount of time with physical custody of their child (or children). There are multiple ways to set an equal 50/50 parenting time schedule for the physical custody of your children.
One of the common ways to arrange a 50/50 parenting schedule is to use the “one week on, one week off” method. With this schedule, the children will typically reside with one parent in that parent’s home for a full week and then spend the following week living with the other parent in their home. Oftentimes, this approach is best suited for older children and teenagers, since it is more difficult for very young children to spend an entire week away from one parent.
Another way to do a 50/50 parenting time schedule is to alternate weekends (Friday through Sunday) with the children living with one parent on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other parent on Wednesdays and Thursdays. This custody schedule is also referred to as a 2-2-5-5 schedule. Essentially, each parent will have five days with their children one week, and then two days with their children the following week.
What Are Some of the Benefits of Using a 50/50 Parenting Time Schedule?
The most significant benefit to utilizing an equal 50/50 parenting time schedule is that this approach fosters stronger parent-child relationships with both parents. When one parent has primary physical custody, and the other parent only has visitation with their children, the parent with visitation is more likely to be pushed into a secondary parent role. It can be difficult for parent-child relationships to grow stronger over time when one parent is consistently acting as only a “part-time” parent.
Another benefit to a 50/50 parenting time schedule is that it can help to provide better support for all children. In many families, there are some things that a son or daughter is more comfortable speaking to their father about, and vice versa. Having equal parenting time with both parents allows each child to have regular contact with each parent, making it easier to communicate things with the parent that they are more comfortable sharing them with.
Finally, it is understandable that many parents initially fear being away from their children for half the time and are reluctant to consider a 50/50 parenting time schedule. However, many divorced parents living this reality report that having time to themselves is restorative, allowing them to be more present with their kids during their “on” time and benefiting from having “off” time. It also allows both parents to feel that there is a more equal division of tasks and responsibilities when it comes to managing the kids, reducing resentments and resulting in a better co-parenting relationship.
If a 50/50 Parenting Time Schedule Is Not Possible, What Are Some Alternatives?
For many families, a completely equal 50/50 parenting time schedule may not be a realistic physical custody arrangement. It is not unusual for one parent to move far enough away after a divorce that an equal parenting time split is not in the best interests of the children. In other cases, a 50/50 parenting time schedule might not be the best fit due to one parent’s work hours or other factors.
Fortunately, there are other ways to work out a physical custody schedule that can be beneficial to both the children and their parents while still maintaining some of the benefits that an equal 50/50 schedule provides. Through divorce mediation, you and your former partner can discuss the available custody schedule options and work together to make an arrangement that is best for your family’s needs.
1. Primary Residence with Parent A/Substantial Visitation with Parent B
One alternative way to get some of the benefits of an equal 50/50 parenting time schedule is to choose a schedule in which the children live with Parent A the majority of the time but still spend a substantial amount of time with Parent B. For example, the children would spend an extended weekend with Parent B every other weekend (from Friday after school through Monday morning drop-off at school) and also spend 1-2 afternoons and evenings with Parent B (who would drop the children off at Parent A’s home after dinner during those weeknights).
2. 4-3 Schedule—Parent A with 4 Days Per Week, and Parent B with 3 Days Per Week
This schedule is not as common, but it can work for some families, particularly those in which one parent works on the weekends. With a 4-3 schedule, the children would live with Parent A for four days per week and with Parent B for the other three days in the week.
Typically, this schedule would give Parent B every weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) with their children. This schedule can work well for situations in which Parent A works over the weekends and would otherwise require childcare during that time. Of course, when both parents work Mondays through Fridays and have the weekends off, this schedule is not an ideal arrangement.
3. School Year Residence with Parent A/Summer Vacation with Parent B
If there is a substantial physical distance between the two co-parents (such as living in different states), a common physical custody schedule would grant one parent primary physical custody during the school year—with the other parent having their children live at their home for the majority of the summer and school breaks.
Mediation and Physical Custody of Children in New York
A mediator at Divorce Mediation Professionals can help you and your family during this challenging time. Contact us today to set up a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you both move forward with an agreed upon arrangement achieved through mediation.