One of the most important issues to many parents going through a separation or divorce is the allocation of parenting time between a child’s parents.  Developing a parenting time schedule has to consider several important factors, including the child’s needs, the child’s school and activity schedules, the parents’ work schedules, and the proximity between the parents’ homes.

While parents are always encouraged to develop a parenting time schedule that is tailored to the child’s needs and schedule, there are several common schedules that you may want to consider as a starting point.

Understanding the differences

Many county domestic relations or family courts provide a “standard” or “basic” parenting schedule as part of their written local rules, or as part of the resources made available to the public.  It is important to note that these schedules are intended to apply when there is a residential or custodial parent, and a non-residential or non-custodial parent. This is different from an arrangement where both parents are considered residential parents, like in a shared parenting arrangement.

These standard parenting time schedules are often broken down into categories based on the age of the children.  When children are younger, their time with the non-residential parent may be less and typically involves fewer overnights. As the children age, the time with the residential parent typically increases.  You can visit your county’s domestic relations or family court’s website to review the standard or basic parenting schedule.

In a shared parenting scenario, parents and courts frequently prefer a schedule that evenly, or nearly evenly, divides children’s time between their parents’ households.  There are several common schedules that can serve as a guide to parents as they try to develop a parenting time schedule that makes sense for their children.

The 5-2-2-2 schedule

A very common schedule is a 5-5-2-2 schedule. The schedule is named based on the number of days in a two-week period that the children will be with each parent. In other words, the children are with mom for 5 days, then dad for 5 days, then mom for 2 days, then dad for two days. Many parents find it helpful to review on a calendar, like this one, which shows each parent’s overnights with the children in a two-week rotating schedule:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 Father Father Mother Mother Mother Mother Mother
Week 2 Father Father Mother Mother Father Father Father

In a 5-5-2-2 schedule, the children are with the same parent every Monday and Tuesday, and every Wednesday and Thursday.  Some families prefer this schedule because it provides consistency for children to know that they are always with Dad on Tuesday, or always with Mom on Thursday.  This schedule also equally divides weekend time so that the children are able to spend quality weekend time with each parent equally.

The 2-2-3 schedule

Another common schedule is a 2-2-3 schedule. This is similar to the 5-5-2-2 schedule, except that the weekday allocation between parents is different each week. It has the effect of the children being away from each parent for only three days, instead of 5 days.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 Father Father Mother Mother Father Father Father
Week 2 Mother Mother Father Father Mother Mother Mother

The week on/off schedule

Finally, some families prefer a weekly alternating schedule, sometimes referred to as a “week on/ week off” schedule.  This schedule has very few transitions, which can be desirable, but also results in the children going a week without seeing the other parent.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 Father Father Father Father Father Father Father
Week 2 Mother Mother Mother Mother Mother Mother Mother

 

Obviously, all of these schedules require that the parents live relatively close to one another.  If one parent lives out-of-town, the parenting time schedule will look much different.

Though we have reviewed some of the typical parenting time schedules, it is best for children if parents work together to determine a schedule that allows for smooth transitions and coordinates with the children’s school and activity schedules. These typical schedules can be a good starting point for consideration of a schedule that will work as your family creates its new normal.