What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan (also referred to as a joint custody schedule) is a written child custody and visitation agreement between parents that outlines the specifics of their:
- Time-share arrangement (when the child(ren) will be each parent)
- Decision-making plan (how the parents will make decisions concerning the child’s health, education, welfare, etc.)
Parenting plans can be as detailed or as general as you make them. When drafting your agreement, you can also include restrictions concerning calling your child outside of your custodial days, negative comments, canceling or rescheduling parenting time, and more.
Types of Child Custody & Visitation Parenting Plans
If parents have joint physical custody, their child will live with each parent for a specified amount of time. How much time exactly and when (i.e. what days of the week) is determined by the plan you create. The best parenting plan for your child(ren) will depend on a variety of factors such as each parent’s schedule, the child’s school and extracurricular schedule, and their child’s age.
Below, we will describe some popular types of parenting plans as well as which plans work best depending on the child’s age. Please be advised that you can change what day of the week you begin the schedule.
With this schedule, parents will alternate spending two days, two days, and then three days with their child. Week 1 will look like this:
- Parent A has 2 days (Monday-Tuesday).
- Parent B has 2 days (Wednesday-Thursday).
- Parent A has the last 3 days of the week (Friday-Sunday).
The following week:
- Parent B will have 2 days (Monday-Tuesday).
- Parent A will have 2 days (Wednesday-Thursday).
- Parent B will then have the last 3 days of the week (Friday-Sunday).
Parents will then repeat Week 1 and 2, and each shift will begin at 8 am or the start of school. Exchanges can occur at the school to minimize the need for interactions between parents and make the transitions easy for the children. This plan can be beneficial for you and your child as you never go more than 3 days without seeing one another. Because of how often you see each other, this is the best course of action for preschool-age children or younger. It is important to note that this is a lot of back and forth (6 exchanges within a two-week period), and this can be a hard adjustment to make for some parents and children.
Also known as a 2-2-5-5 schedule, this plan involves parents each having two days and then five days with their child. Specifically, parent A will have the child Monday and Tuesday (2 days). Parent B will then have the child Wednesday and Thursday (2 days). After another trade-off, parent A will have the child Friday to the following Tuesday (5 days), and parent B will have the child Wednesday to Sunday. The 2-2-5-5 pattern will then repeat.
This schedule allows parents to have the same two days every week, which can help them better plan weekly activities, and each parent’s weekend duties alternate. This plan is best for elementary and middle school-aged children, because some weeks have a longer duration between visits. There are only 4 exchanges within two weeks, and parents can save on transportation fees.
With this plan, your child will alternate which parent they live with every week. During Week 1, Monday to Sunday, your child is with parent A. The following week (Monday to Sunday) your child is with parent B. This plan is most ideal for older adolescents, such as high-school-age kids. Even though you will benefit by having fewer exchanges (1 per week), it can be difficult for the parent and child to go an entire week without seeing one another.
Parent A will have the child for 11 days (Monday to the following week’s Thursday), and parent B will have the child for 3 days (Friday-Sunday). However, parent B will have a midweek visit each week. The mid-week visit can be any day of the week and does not have to be an overnight visit; it can simply be for 2-3 hours or dinner. This decision is up to the parents.
This schedule is most beneficial when:
- one parent has a busy work schedule (with most of their available time falling on weekends or weekday evenings), or
- one parent lives far away from the child’s school.
To view a visual layout of the schedules mentioned above, please click here.
Parents must also complete and submit a Holiday Schedule, FL-341(C). Unless otherwise specified, this schedule will supersede the regular time-share agreement. In the Holiday Schedule, parents will need to determine:
- What holidays children will spend with each parent
- Whether certain holidays will be spent with one parent every year or both parents during alternating years
- If holidays will be spent with both parents
- What time (from when to when) children will be with either parent
Additional Considerations for Developing a Joint Custody Schedule
Your child’s age can have a large impact on what the best scheduling option is for your child. Here are some considerations regarding their age.
- Children under 3 are still developing attachments and building trust and they need consistency. With infants, it is also important to note that nighttime feedings and their sleep schedule may make overnight visits impossible; however, the non-residential parent should still aim to visit multiple times a week without disrupting their nap or feeding plan.
- Children aged 3-5 also need to maintain a consistent routine. For them, time is still a concept they may struggle with and parents should avoid having a schedule where they do not see the child for long periods. Exchanges may also be difficult for children this age; parents can either plan to limit the exchanges and/or ensure the child has a comfort toy or object with them during exchanges.
- Children aged 6-9 may struggle to accept the separation and/or with missing their other parent. When creating your parenting plan, they can benefit from having phone or video calls with the other parent.
- Children aged 10-13 will more easily understand the schedule and new routine. However, if there is a lot of tension and conflict, they may struggle with their feelings (i.e. anger, frustration, anxiety) or may feel like they have to fix the problem. If you and the other parent are not amicable, consider limiting your interactions by having exchanges be at school pick up or drop off or in other ways.
- Children aged 14-18 will benefit from a more flexible parenting plan because they may have more activities and preferences.
In addition to your child’s age, you should consider:
- Legal vs. physical custody. While legal custody addresses a parent’s right to make major decisions concerning their child’s health and welfare, physical custody refers to a parent’s right and responsibility to supervise their child. A parenting plan should include how physical and legal custody will be shared.
- The child’s best interest. The child’s best interests as it relates to their specific emotional, education, and security needs should take precedence.
- Practicalities. Consider which party is primarily responsible for certain parenting tasks now, such as helping with homework, handling medical appointments, doing school pick-ups and drop-offs, handling bedtime or the nighttime routine, etc. This can help you determine what plan may be easiest for both parents and the child to handle during this transition.
Contact Our Child Custody Lawyers Today
At Kraft Miles, A Law Corporation, our attorneys have over 60 years of combined legal experience. When you retain our firm, you can trust us to advise you of your best legal options and prioritize the best interest of you, your child, and your family. We are dedicated to helping parents navigate the complex legalities and determine which parenting plan will best benefit them (and their children) with compassion and understanding. We handle child custody and visitation cases involving modification, parental relocation, and child support.
Need help with your child custody case? Schedule a consultation with our team today by calling (818) 462-5076 or completing this form. Se habla español.