Creating a Plan for Shared Custody
Berkeley Parents Network >
Family Relations >
Creating a Plan for Shared Custody
I have been separated from my husband, (soon to be ex-husband),
for over a year. We have 2 young children (3 yrs old and 2yrs
old) and have been unsuccessful at working out a ''set''
visitation schedule. We are not good at communicating and
there is still conflict, so working out visitation EVERY WEEK
takes a lot of energy and is very frustrating.
He works in a kitchen and every week claims to ''hopefully'' be
on a set schedule ''soon''. Weeks have gone by and I'm at my
wits end. He claims that he will lose his job or not be
promoted if he has to work on a set schedule...is this true?
Do managers/chefs look down on people with kids? Is anyone out
there a manager at a restaurant and can explain why
someone with kids/visitation cannot have a set work schedule?
As someone who has struggled to get an ex to make a workable co-
parenting schedule, I feel your pain. One of the things that
liberated me was to say, OK, here's the schedule. Whether
you're working or not (or playing tennis or going to a lecture
or whatever) during ''your'' days, you are responsible to get a
sitter. My own experience was that I was so used to taking care
of both my ex and my child that when my ex said ''Oh, I can't do
it that night,'' I thought I had to jump in. But then a light
bulb went on. YOUR EX has to be responsible. I recognize that
with food service work, he may have to work late, and he might
want to only have the kids if he can be with them during the
evening. But there are some realities here, such as the fact
that working parents can't always be with their kids when they
would like to and sometimes have to hire someone to watch
them. You may also prefer to watch them rather than have him
hire a sitter -- in which case perhaps you should discuss
altering the visitation schedule so that he has less care of
the kids until he gets a more stable work schedule, and pays
you more child support. In either case, he needs to commit to
a regular schedule that both you and the kids can depend on,
whether it means reducing his time with the kids for the time
being or hiring a sitter. I don't know enough about your
situation to judge, but it may be that he's just not taking
proper responsibility for childcare, being used to have someone
else do it.
Yes, the schedules are brutal. My husband is a manager which means he opens and
closes and sleeps in between shifts. This seems like an illegal practice, but I
sure if he files a grievance he will be replaced. So far, he has worked for three
with an erratic schedule. He gets called in when it is swamped or he sends staff
home if it is slow. He does see the kids a few hours afterschool. This is hardly
quality time since he is tired and cranky. The job is not really worth the money
I wish for a ''normal'' life. The business closes past midnight so I hardly see
night. Then it opens again at 8AM so he I see him for 15 minutes in the mornings
including weekend which are the busiest times. The owner is from a country where
they used to work very long hours so he dares not complain to them about the
family issue. Let your spouse know how much you appreciate their hard work and
try to be supportive. They will find their way to a better position if that is
want. The job situation may be out of your control for now.
Married to the Manager
I have a friend who went to culinary school and then moved into
the food business, and the stories she told me about how she and
the other workers were treated were appalling. Based on her
experience it seems like there is a subculture of that encourages
demanding schedules, and inflexible, uncaring management so I can
imagine it would be hard to have a set weekly schedule.
I imagine it would make coparenting logistics very tricky. Good
luck working through things!
As someone who has worked in the food business for a long time
I have to say that he is right. I am sure people will tell you
he should talk to his both or that it's illegal to treat
employees that way but the bottom line is that in the food
business you are very replacable and that if you make ongoing
schedule requests you will be considered a whiner and let go. I
would say a majority of restaurant workers are not ''career''
restaurant employees and therefore not as reliable (if
something better comes up they leave) and therefore things are
often different from one week to the next. Yes there are
exceptions but they are just that...exceptions.After many years
of exeprience it can change. Employees usually have to work
week ends but they usually get some week days off which could
be usueful with kids. good luck
I was a cook when I was in college, and unfortunately, being
kitchen staff is just like that. If your ex-husband is a manager
of some sort then he's got to cover anybody who flakes out and
doesn't show up. He's ultimately responsible for the kitchen and
if it goes downhill its his fault. Even if he's not a manager,
he's schedule would be dictated by the whims of the customers
(whether its busy or not). Being a cook was the most stressful
job I've ever had in my life and I'm so glad I'm doing something
I've known a lot of divorced cooks because the hours are SO
demanding, especially for somebody in management or trying to get
into management. Because it's really just a restaurant the
demands are something that don't really get a lot of respect. I
mean, doctors can usually be forgiven for a non-set
schedule...but is anybody's life going to be in danger if they
can't get their creme brulee in time to make it to the opera? no.
I don't think your husband is using work as an excuse to get out
of parenting responsibilities. He's trying to make sure he can
keep his job.
The problem is him, not food service. I have been divorced for
three years and my ex has never been able to manage a set
schedule for anything, even before the divorce. I gave up on
trying to set up a visitation schedule a long time ago. It is
less painful for all to just go about your own life on your own
schedule. He'll fit himself in or he won't. His loss, and your
kids will be happier with your stability.
-- a mom
I posed your question to a friend of mine who is an executive
chef at a high end restaurant. He says that schedules do change
and like in any profession, flexibility and hard work helps
advance a career. He also said that your 'ex' should, however,
have a good rough estimate of blocks of time that he will have
off each day. Perhaps instead of looking for specific days that
he has off, you should look for specific time periods that he has
Who cares if it's true? Eff him if he doesn't want to make the
kids a priority. Set YOUR schedule and stick to it. If you have a
lawyer, draft the policy and mention in it how difficult it is to
get him to commit to the time he sees his own children. Keep a
paper trail. I'll bet after a few weeks of missing his kids,
he'll suddenly find the sack to ask for a set schedule. What a
jerk. You don't have to parent him in addition to your kids. Take
care of YOU and let him come along if he wants to be a man and a
p.s. I totally don't mean this to be dismissive of dads in
general. I know how hard it can be to find time when you're
working extra hours to pay child support. But to refuse to commit
to a schedule is just flaky and passive-aggressive.
Excuse my emotional response! So, having the responsibility of
the kids on a set schedule would cramp his style? What about
you? How many mothers, single or married, have had to deal with
kid/work conflicts. I say his ''inability'' to work something out
is not your problem. Isn't that the point of divorce? He has
you on a string continually communicating. You could claim the
same kind of hardship he's claiming - raising kids takes time
and the rest of your life is scheduled around that. I would
find a mediator through the courts to have a schedule set!
The restaurant business is not a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday
affair like most of us are used to. It's nights, weekends, and
holidays, and the schedules change all the time depending on
customer flow. So while your ex may have one schedule one week,
it may change the next. Do restaurants look down on employees
with kids? I'm sure some of them do. I'm also sure some of them
don't. Keep in mind restaurants are notorious for not giving
their employees benefits. Your ex may be hard pressed to ask for
a consistent schedule. However, he may need to make a more
concerted effort to get slightly more consistent time off i.e. a
certain day every two weeks, etc.
My partner and I are in the early stages of a divorce and are
discussing the possibility of leaving the kids in our current
home full time, and having one of us be the ones to move in and
out per a certain schedule. We could take an apartment that we
would share on the side, or each get our own places for the time
we are not the ''live-in'' parent. I know of one person who does
this and seems to be happy with it, but a few other people I
questioned have said that it seems very difficult on the parents,
and unsustainable for the long term.
Has anyone tried this arrangement that could share some thoughts
on it? Or is there anyone who can tell me whether or not they
think that the added stability it might provide to the kids would
significantly outweigh the instability it might cause the
parents? I really want to do what will cause our kids the least
amount of stress, but I have to admit that the possibility of my
not feeling totally grounded has me concerned that I will not be
able to be the best parent. Our kids will be 5 and 6 at the time
this change would take place, if that helps to put the question
of what's best for the kids into perspective.
I haven't done this or anything like this (not divorced), but I think it
is an excellent idea, speaking as a child of divorce. It's so hard on
kids to have to move from house to house, especially one they may think
is weird, scary, or too small/big. Also, which parent gets the ''real''
house can cause favoritism, or judgement, etc. It might be a bit
difficult on you and your ex-partner, but not much more difficult than
it would be for your children. It seems to me that often that though
they are not the ''cause''
of divorce, children suffer terribly from the things that come of it
(besides simply Mommy and Daddy not being together anymore). However, to
do this, you would probably have to be on mild to very good terms with
your ex-partner, because sometimes in divorce the two people simply
can't bear that much reminder of the other.
I have not done this myself but had friends that did and it worked
beautifully for them. Mom rented her own studio apartment and Dad got a
room in a group house. The kids stayed in the family home and Mom and
Dad split the week living there.
This may not work forever, but might add some needed stability during
this transition. Just because you do this for a year - or even 5 years
- doesn't mean you're wedded to the arrangement until the kids leave
I admire you for considering this option and wish you good luck.
My ex and I split 7 years ago when our kids were 3 and 7. We kept the
kids in the house and for the 1st year; he and I went back and forth
between an apartment we shared. We did it in part to save some $, but
largely to spare the kids. For us, and the few others I've heard of who
have done this, it is a great thing for the kids--short or long term.
For us, it gave the kids a chance to get used to being with just one of
us at a time still in the comfort of the only home they'd ever known.
(They also got a real kick out of visiting the apt occasionally--go
In terms of it being a pain for the adults, well, yes, it might be, but
the kids didn't ask for this, the adults did and so why make it any
harder on the kids than it has to be, right? As a freelancer, I had two
offices (1 in the apt and 1 at home) and was constantly shleping stuff
back and forth, but really, it was a small price to pay for my kids'
added comfort and stability.
Look, no kid ever wants their parents to be divorced, but it happens,
and hopefully everyone learns valuable lessons from it.
The best thing (as you probably already know since you're thinking this
way)--regardless of the housing situation--is that the parents get along
and co-parent as well as they can.
Transitions for kids are tough, and even if you only did this
''birdnesting'' thing (my lawyer said that's the term for it) for 6
months, it might give the kids the time they need to get used to the
idea of their parents being apart. And what's the worst that can happen?
If you try it and it fails miserably, then go the conventional route. I
see no down side to it, really. If you are worried about your stess
level and how that'll affect the kids, remember that there will be other
things that will cause you stress as well and the key is for you to find
some way to relieve that stress--regardless of the cause.
You're doing a tough and courageous thing (the divorce) and I applaud
you and your partner for even being able to consider this route (the
birdnesting thing). It speaks volumes for your concern for your kids.
With parents like this, I'm sure your kids will be fine in the end. If
you have any more questions, just email me. Best of luck to you.
We tried this several years ago. I think we wanted stability for our
kids as you do and also couldn't bear to part with our nice house or
decide who would get it. My husband rented 1/2 of a house from a co
worker. I rented a room with a shared bath in another woman's house.
After about 4-5 months we decided it was just too expensive to be paying
for three sets of accomodations. We quickly had thrown out the idea of
an apartment when we were out of the house. We each needed our private
space. Finally, I moved back into the house but couldn't afford to keep
it with my minimal salary. I kept renting more and more out until I was
living in the in-law unit with no kitchen. Eventually I had to sell it
and my ex stayed with his arrangement of 1/2 a house rental until he
Our two children were roughly the same age as yours. You will need to
evaluate your finances carefully and do what is best for all of you.
Best of luck at finding a solution that is healthy and happy for all.
anon in N. Berkeley
As part of our marriage settlement agreement my soon to be
ex-wife and I will share custody of our nearly 3 year old
daughter. I am moving to the DC area soon and she is remaining in
the Bay Area. Our daughter will spend 9 weeks with each of us.
This is an experiment to see if it works in a healthy way. If
not, it's back to mediation.
Has anyone has any experience with such an unusual shared
custody? If so, what advice can you give.
My father moved to California after my parents got divorced (I
was 13 - my brother was 11) and we lived in Michigan. We would
fly out to see him but since his folks lived in Michigan
sometimes he would fly home. This went on through our adult
years - I would live out there for summers, etc. My brother
ended up moving in with him when he was 13 and I stayed with my
mom but we still flew back and forth over summers and holidays
and it worked out just fine. Ironically, I moved to California
myself as an adult and my brother moved his family to Michigan.
If you want to email me with specific questions, I'll be happy
to share my experience with you
I actually WAS the child in a shared custody arrangement in two
states. I lived a year with my dad, then a year with my mom. I
want to assure you that I am very happy my parents decided to do
it this way because it is the only way I would have been this
close to them both. This is much more important to me than the
friends I might have grown up with. That said, there are a few
things you should plan on doing to make it easier for your
First: ship her back to see the other parent for christmas and
let her call them whenever she wants.
Second: she should spend summer vacations with the parent she
lived with during the previous school year so she has friends.
Third: Expect that at some point she will get sick of it and ask
to live with just one parent so she doesn't lose all of her
friends again. When this happens don't take it personally, it is
a social life decision not a matter of choosing parents. I did
this in the 10th grade.
Fourth: Try to maintain some continuity in activities. If she's
on a swim team in one state, try to find one in the other state
so she doesn't have to start a new activity every year.
Fifth: If one state has middle school 6-8th grade and the other
state has middle school 7-9th grade, try to fix it so your kid
isn't stuck with 4 years of middle school. At 35 I'm still a bit
irritated my folks didn't plan that one better.
Sixth: this probably goes for all divorced parents, if you are
having financial disagreements (i.e. who has to pay for the
braces) DON'T involve your kid (''why don't you call your dad and
tell him he needs to pay the orthodontist?'' is really uncool).
Though I admit it would have been easier on me if my parents had
lived in the same state, heck, it would have been easier on me
if they had stayed married and really loved each other, but that
just wasn't the reality. A kid needs two happy parents more than
anything, and I'm glad that I got to be close to both of mine.
been that kid
I respect you asking this question and seeking advice! As a
psychologist and an expert custody issues I think you should
consider one thing in your evaluation of how well your daughter
will do in this type of situation. What has her experience been
so far and how much of a drastic change this move will be for a
young child? One of the primary developmental tasks of a three
year olds is to gradually increase interests in peers, school
and other social environments. This task may be made more
difficult with this custody arrangement because of the periodic
changes in her social environments. She may experience the
constant changes as constantly ''starting over'' and may
experience pain from being away from either of you for such a
long periods of time. Three year olds have the ability to hold
the other parent in their mind which is good because they will
be able to comfort themselves in extended absences from one
parent but painful because they really are aware of the feelings
of abandonment! These experiences could make her more
susceptible for depression or other behavior issues depending on
her temperament. It will also be difficult to keep up this type
of schedule in a few years when starting school. Most experts
would recommend no more than three to four days away from either
parent. I do applaud the spirit of the agreement to ''share''
your daughter, but I think this experiment is risky and could
cause more problems down the line. If you were staying in the
area I would invite to to attend a Divorced Dads group that I
lead or would offer to help your family find the best ways to
achieve consistency and stability for your daughter life while
maintaining a real presence from a long distance. Good luck!
My friend's children are 1 and 2 1/2 years old and is just
filing for divorce. Her husband and she share custody of the
children and they are trying to determine the appropriate time
for each of them to have the children. the husband wants to keep
the children 50% of the time but there is concern what this
split time may have on children that young. The older one has
already shown signs of regression when she returns home to the
mother after 2-3 nights away with the father. does anyone know
the expert advice on this?
thank you very much
This is an unfortunate though common scenario where a parent may be putting his needs before those
of the children.
Developmentally, it it very difficult on young children to be apart from their primary caregiver
(in this case, it sounds like it's the Mom but it would be the same if Dad were primary care giver)
even on overnights in some cases.
A good book on this topic is ''Good Parenting Through Your Divorce'' By Mary Ellen Hannibal and put
out by Kids Turn (kidsturn.org). It goes over all the needs of children at each developmental
A good pyschologist in the East Bay is Chandler Hoffman 510-847- 7919.
I took a really great workshop for divorced parents called Kids' Turn and I highly recommend it to
all divorced parents, even if things are going pretty well already. I learned so much from the
workshop, and the handbook I got in the workshop has become one of my most frequently consulted
parenting resources. You can look Kids' Turn up online. They do workshops all over the Bay Area
and have set an example for similar workshops in other parts of the country. They have a
sliding-fee scale, which encourages parents to be part of this regardless of their financial
situation. I encourage you to look them up online.
Also, Philip Stahl's book, Parenting After Divorce, is full of really great advice on how parents
can do their best to put their children's needs first.
Best of luck,
While older (pre-1990) scholarship suggested otherwise, contemporary work (1990 to the present)
shows that substantially equal custody works best at all ages. The ''regression'' seen in the 2
1/2 year old in the presented case could be simply due to the divorce rather than to something
connected with the father's timeshare. The work of Joan Kelly, Ph. D., is the most scholarly on
this issue, and a search of this work will be useful in learning more about this situation.
Our Group, California Parents United, has data which is electronically available by contacting me
at the e-mail address below.
This is a sensitive issue, so happy the involved parties are thinking about this.
It's important to remember that this is a transition, so there likely will be bumps along the way.
My ex and I separated when my son was 9 months old. For the first few months, his visitation was
done at our house (mostly while I was out, but we really tried to stay amicable).
At 15 months I was ready (and my ex was ready) to let my son spend the night at his house. We did
not get to a 50-50 split until my son was almost four. We took our cues from our son as best we
We actually hired a co-parenting counselor (an advocate for our
son) to help us with these types of decisions. We were determined to keep any negative feelings
that we had about one another out of our parenting. We're not super-human but we did pretty well.
(We have a very well adjusted 12 year old now)
But really, the important thing is that everyone have as a priority what is best for the child. If
that's the case, it will be evident to the child and will go a long way to smoothing the rough road
that is divorce. Also, I firmly believe in seeking professional help in understanding your child's
behavior (and your own feelings) if you think it will help at all.
One more observation, transitions between households can be hard. It is best wherever possible to
schedule them across another activity. For instance, dad drops off at pre-school and mom picks up.
We found direct transitions from one house to another to be challenging right up to the age of 12.
My aunt did a 50-50 split when her kids were 5 and 3. They are now in college and she feels
strongly that it was a very bad arrangement for the kids. They literally were changing houses every
7 days, living out of a suitcase. This was so hard on them. Each week they would have to readjust
to the new house, with new rules and just as they settled in towards the end of the week, they were
off again. It has been shown that what kids need most, especially when they are very young like
your friends are, is routine and consistency. They gain inner strength from that. Splitting time
between parents may be nice for each parent, but it is severly damaging for the kids. My aunts
older daughter now suffers from bipolar disorder and she can't help but wonder if the arrangement
had an impact on her.
I would have your friend read studies on this issue and fight to have them full time at one home,
for the kids sake.
This is a difficult issue for professionals who are advising or evaluating families regarding child
custody arrangements. The professional literature is somewhat split on custody arrangements for
young children -- with some professinals emphasizing the need for regular contact (even overnights)
with both parents and others emphasizing the need for continuity of care with a primary parent. It
is important to remember that no one schedule will work for everyone. The schedule must be
tailored to the unique needs of the children and family.
Regressive behavior in young children following separation from one parent is quite common in the
post-divorce period. The question of importance is the extent of the regression and the
recoverability of the child. Children who cry, have eating or sleeping problems, or show other
regressive signs after separating from one parent, but who manifest the ability to recover within a
relatively short time probably will be able to adjust to a 50-50 custody split (assuming reasonably
competent parenting by each parent, and a reasonable degree of cooperation between them). However,
when children continue to show significant regression, even after a reasonable adjustment period,
then the family may have to consider another custody arrangement -- at least for the time being.
Remember, it is unrealistic to assume that a living arrangement established when children are young
will necessarily continue to serve their needs (or the needs of parents) throughout the growing up
years. Furthermore, another guiding principle is to try to minimize the number of transitions
between households so that the children aren't always changing residences and have the opportunity
to settle in with both their mother and father.
Probably the key factor influencing children's adjustment post- divorce though (other than warm and
loving parenting by both parents), is the degree of cooperation the parents can achieve regarding
child care issues. Ongoing parental conflict, with each attempting to get the children to side
with them, is devastating for children of divorce.
Two excellent parenting guides for couples who are divorcing
Parenting after divorce by Phil Stahl, Ph.D Growing up with divorce by Neil Kalter, Ph.D.
My parents shared 50/50 custody of me from age 2 to 16. I have no memory of my custody
arrangements prior to school age but remember feeling deeply loved by two people you were committed
to me in a way that they had not committed to another and felt equally loved by both parents - no
one could give me up more then they had to. By school age I did first a 2-2-5-5 rotation (two days
at each then five at each) then 3-3-4-4 just changing which school bus I took to get to either
home. By high school I changed to a rotating every week (my step-father wanted to build our
relationship and thought a longer stay would help - it didn't but later it all worked out). Any
combination worked fine for me. By high school I wanted all my shoes with me so wednesday i hauled
a bag back and forth - we had lockers then -
not sure what kids do now. My mom remained my best friend but
my dad was were I learned about unconditional love. I once worked out a schedule for my
half-brothers to get to stay together some days and each have time alone with each parent other
days (they were older and it was not implmented). The message I got about my importance to both
parents was the greatest gift of my childhood. Oh, the rule that whoever moved lost me and then no
one moving helped too.
50/50 was great in any combination
If anyone has experience with joint custody arrangements, I
would appreciate hearing how others have managed to make this
work with an amicable divorce. I need to also hear how people
have arranged the joint custody of 2 young kids. thanks.
Soon to be Single
Please, please read ''The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce'' by Judith
Wallerstein. There is a chapter in it about shared custody. As
a former child of divorce and a joint custody arrangement I
highly recommend it. In brief, the vast majority of parents and
courts structure a child's visitation schedules around the
parents' lives, needs and convenience, often at the expense of
the child's right to enjoy their own neighborhood,
extracurricular activities, and friendships. Of course, each
parent's desire to maintain a close connection with their child
is huge, but it is not everything that the child needs at this
critical time. To the extent you can consider your child's own
preferences, please do so, keeping in mind that these
preferences may well change as your child grows older and
her/his interests and social needs change. Try to preserve
their ability to accept impromptu sleepover invitations and
playdates, and practice schedules, and club meetings. Try to
avoid having to put your kid on a long bus or plane ride alone.
Whichever parent is at the ''new'' place should solicit a great
deal of input from the child about how they would like their
space at the other home to be. Just a few thoughts. Good luck
Does anyone have advice about visitation/sleepovers, for a
child under 1 yrs. old, during a separation or divorce.Our
daughter has spent a lot of time with both parents and is
still breast feeding. I am very concerned with how our child
will be effected by the separation. I hate the thought of being
apart from her overnight but want to do what is best for her.
Her father wants me to wean her so that she can be away
overnight. Also, I would be interested in a recommendation
for a child psychologist if anyone has had a good
experience with a similar situtation.
Check out the California Divorce Handbook at
A few months ago I was also considering divorce and had a small baby,
so I did a web search and came across that page. I felt the
parameters they were giving were useful, but I never actually
contacted those attorneys (nor did I feel a need to do so).
Kids' Turn (www.kidsturn.org) offers a program specifically for
parents of children aged 0-3 who are going through
divorce/separation, helping them to figure out what's best for
their young one. also, Patricia Van Horn, Ph.D., at the Child
Trauma Research Project at SFGH is a psychologist with expertise
in this area.
This question arises in my law practice fairly frequently as I
am an attorney who represents both parents and
sometimes the children in often difficult custody/visitation
The old school of thought and writings by experts regarding
infants and toddlers under age three favored a home base
with the mother and frequent but short visits with dad, no
overnights. Some psychologists still recommend this sort
of arrangement. However, more recent studies place great
emphasis on the importance of dad's involvement with
infants and toddlers and accesses dad's important role in
development as equal though different than mom's. Dad's
involvement effects positive motor skill, language and
independence development. I have researched this myself
and feel that dad's importance was and sometimes is today
undervalued by the courts.
The fact that you're nursing should not stand in the way of
time and overnights with dad. Overnights with dad should
be fine even though your baby is nursing if you get the baby
used to using a bottle as well as breast. Just pump your
breast milk and give dad a large supply. The overnights
should probably be limited to one night until you completely
wean the baby which is certainly reasonable to do by the
time your child reaches one year. At one year or so, you can
switch to whole cow 's milk. In the meantime, have her
spend 3 days/overnights per week with dad each separated
by 2 days/nights with mom until the baby is completely
weaned. That way she has a home base but is very
involved with her father as well. And remember to give him
the supply of breast milk. If dad could visit once for a few
hours during his 2 off days that would be even better for the
baby, too. As the baby gets to be over a year and is weaned,
then increase the number of consecutive overnights to 2
and work out some sort of schedule where the child gets to
see you both frequently but doesn't have to constantly shift
homes. Also, send the baby's favorite sleepy toys with her
back and forth.
By the time the child is three years old, a true fifty/fifty custody
share is feasible and healthy for your child.
My daughter is 17 month old and her daddy and I are separating.
Right now he is taking her every night after work to his place
and brings her b ack to my house. Weekend we alternate. I am
not so confortable about her schedule. However, he claims that
he has as much rights to take her as I do. So I feel like I need
to let him take her. I know he is a great daddy so I am not so
worried about how he is taking care of her, but I am not sure if
it is the best schedule. I am working every other weekend only
right now so I get to keep her during the day time. But I will
be going back to work full time, and I work from 3-11:30pm.
Well, you both have equal rights if that is what you agree to.
However, under CA law and good family practice the person with
the most ''rights'' is your infant. The law in CA is very clear
that the arrangements a court would seek (and I am NOT advocating
going to court- far from it!!!) is one that will be of most
benefit to the child. Is it the most benefit to your infant to
be going back and forth nightly from house to house? Is that too
much change for a 17 mo. old? Is it a good idea? What would be
best for your child? That's the question that optimally the two
parents are best working together on. Perhaps a family therapist
or mediator specializing in these issues could help.
It sounds to me as if you could really use a mediator to help
you understand how to work out a good schedule. It is true
that your daughter should have time with her Daddy as well as
with you, but you should get an arrangement that feels fair to
both of you, and your message sounds as if you are hesitant to
speak up, in which case a mediator would be very helpful. I
can recommend either Judith Joshel or Eva Herzer.
50% custodial parent
I'm sorry for this very difficult time. WOrking out a custody
arrangement can be challenging and difficult, and you will want
to get help on this. Custody arrangements should be set in
writing and approved by the court and they will likely need to
change as children get older and as your situation changes etc.
You and your husband will need to find a way to make these
decisions, as this is only the first of many, many decisions
you will still have to make together.
Consult with a *good* divorce attorney, and speak about your
concerns about this arrangement. Appreciate that your ex wants
to continue to have regular contact with his daughter, and also
know that what *might* be appropriate now (these nightly
visits) likely won't later on.
I am writing seeking advise for the best way to share custody (50/50) of our
21-month old daughter. We have recently split up, and we both want to
spend equal time with her, but so far our arrangement seems unfairly hard
on her. I have moved out and she is spending Sunday-Wednesday with her
father, then Wednesday- Saturday with me. I have heard that switching the
children off each day is the worst, but after spending 3-4 days with her, it
feels unhealthy to me to just let her go for the same length of time. She
clearly feels more comfortable with her father & at her original home, and so
in our time spent together she is very easily upset, often seems anxious, and
does at times try to hit me thinking it is funny. None of these things seems
to be a problem when she is with her father, which shows me that she is
under too much stress for such a young girl, & which is also very frustrating
when I go to drop her off and see that she is so much happier & easier there.
I suppose my advise wanted is two-fold, both for professional advise (although we
are on a tight budget) or any books that one could recommend that could
help us to make this transition easier, & I would also love to meet other
people who have been through similar situations and to hear what their
experiences were. As we were never married, we have not gone through the
court system for any of this & I am also curious if they could be of help?
Thanks in advance, J.
My instinct on reading your request for advice is:
I have been in a similar situation when I was studying at Cambridge
University in England with two small children. I tried to set up an
arrangement with my children's father (we were unmarried). Yet when I
started another relationship, he went crazy, and took out a custody case
against me when the children were staying with him for one of their
Although there was no good basis for it, I lost custody. I was studying at
King's College, Cambridge and had an excellent day-care/kindergarten set
for the children, but the judge (elderly English 'gentleman') said 'these
children need a parent, not a kindergarten'.
It took me two years to regain custody, by which time my children were
seriously traumatised (their father had a drink problem).
Please be careful; it is great that you are trying to make this
arrangement work, but you may be in a weak position as regards child
because you have moved out of the home.
It strikes me also that your daughter is showing you how she feels; it
sounds as if she trusts you enough to show you her unhappiness and
with the arrangement.
I do not know what is right in such a situation; it is great if a child
can have a relationship with both parents. But I would hate to see what
happened to my children and me happen to anyone else.
Believe in yourself and your relationship with your daughter. One thing I
learnt from all this is that love conquers all - and that love is the most
With best wishes,
I was divorced when my children were 6 months old and 2 years old. If I
knew then what I know now, I would have never agreed to the split time. We
initially split the week up like you're doing but noticed that the children
had no consistency whatsoever and realized that we were doing that for
ourselves, not considering what was best for the children. So from
experience, I would look at where the child is most comfortable and what
parent is most available to spend daily time with the child and make that
home the primary home. I would also encourage you to go to court and get
legal. Just because you weren't married doesn't mean you shouldn't go to
court if there's a child involved. But mainly the courts help you in coming
to an agreement if you can't do that on your own. I would just encourage
you to put the child's needs in front of each of your own (missing her,
feeling guilty, etc.).
first, just want to offer support during what sounds like a very difficult
transition for everyone. I've been divorced for 3 years, with 2 kids who are
now 9 and 12, and it has become easier over time for everyone. My kids are
with each of us half time, and we have our own schedule which it took some
time to get to, through a slow process of experimenting, but it seems to
work well for all involved. We did first what worked for the adults, in
terms of what our work allowed, but kept the kids responses and desires
right up there too. They are with me every afternoon after school, every
and Tues eve, and every other Fri eve til Sun morning. The rest of the time
with their dad. A major help is their dad's and my flexibility, and
commitment to keep the kids' needs as the priority (as much as possible -
we have needs too!).
It sounds like a lot of your daughter's behavior is normal for an almost-2
year old, especially going through a big transition. It seems to me she
probably is testing the limits to see what she can do with you/at your
house, vs her dad's. That's part of her job - pushing limits and finding
where the boundaries are. Also, a lot of kids feel more secure emotionally
with one parent, and tend to do more of their emotional work with that
parent, where they feel really safe and can release.
A resource I (and my kids) found useful was Kids' Turn. They offer classes
for kids and parents going through divorce/splitting up, and did a good job
of teaching communication skills for the parents as well as the kids. It was
nice to hear others' stories also.
Feel free to email if you want to talk.
Hi all. My husband and I have a 2 year old daughter and have
been separated for a year. I had previously read (on BPN) that
it is better for young children to have a primary home to give
them a sense of security. To that end, my daughter's father
comes to the house every day to either get her ready in the
morning and drop her at daycare or pick her up in the evening,
feed her dinner and put her to bed. This has been working well
for us for the last year (as we are for the most part on
friendly terms), but now as we begin to move forward with
getting divorced, I was curious how other families have dealt
with visitation for young children. If you followed something
similar to what I described above, at what age did you begin
doing a more traditional (50% time with dad's; 50% time with
mom)visitation schedule? Did you find any books particularly
insightful for this issue? Thanks!
My ex and I have had a visitation situation similar to yours for
the past three years. I requested and received 100 percent
physical and legal custody, as long as I assured the judge my ex
and I could agree to ''fair'' visitation and my ex did not object
to this arrangement (he did not). It seems to be working out
well and we do not plan adjust the arrangement, especially that
our daughter is now in kindergarten and changing homes and
having more than one parental point of contact would be
confusing to all involved.
Shared Custody of two-year-old
I am seeking advice on how to schedule time-sharing arrangements with our
two year old daughter following our physical separation prior to divorce.
Both my husband and I work, he in SF, me in Berkeley. I will continue to
live in Berkeley and my husband insists on "equal" time even though I have
been the primary care-giver since she was born. I am aware of the
standard 15 day cycle where each parents gets one weekend and an equal
amount of time during the week. But this means that there is a three day
separation for each parent every cycle, which seems a lot for such a small
child. On the other hand switching more often -- say almost every other
day -- could be damaging and disorienting. I would be most grateful if
other parents who have gone through this with children of similar age
could share their experiences. We are willing to experiment but the more
information the better. Also, if there are books that have been
particularly useful in thinking about issues of parenting under these
circumstances I would be grateful for references. Many thanks.
My ex-wife & I split up over five years ago and our kids are now 14, 12, &
9 (9-1/2, 6-3/4, & 3-3/4 at the time we separated). When we first split up
we tried a lot of variations, but after about a year we settled on the
scheme where we each have them for two consecutive weeknights and then we
alternate 3-night weekends. This results in: 2 days with her, 2 days with
me, 5 days with her, 5 days with me.
Those 5-day stretches can be both good & bad for everyone, but in the end
the transitions between the houses & styles of living have proven to be as
hard on the kids as the separations. We've both managed to stay pretty
loose about kids going between the houses off-schedule, and we tend to end
up talking on the phone with the kids once or twice during the 5-day
stretches away--plus we almost always end up seeing them at some point
because something needs to be retrieved from the other house. Our
flexibility was of course particularly important when the younger ones were
smaller, and of course is only feasible if you continue to live relatively
close to one another--we're about a mile apart, a distance all but the
youngest now can do on their own. When I first moved out I also moved only
a few doors away, which definitely helped a lot because the kids could go
back & forth at will (although for the two of us that continued proximity
was at times very hard & could result in necessary fights).
For a young child the 5-day stretch is probably too long, but as she gets
older I'd suggest you might want to keep this approach in mind because it
minimizes transitions and gives the sort of long stretches that allow the
kids to settle in at each house. The woman I'm now involved with has had
the same schedule for her just-6 daughter for over two years now & it also
works very well for them. Again, her ex lives about a mile from her & I
think that more than the particulars of the schedule is critical...the
paradox of being divorced with kids is that at least in terms of where you
live, you feel more tied to the ex than ever...
I am a single mother of two children, 5, and 6 1/2. I was divorced when
my son was I year and my dauughter 2 1/2. My ex and I decided to have
joint custody, with each of us havng the children every other week full
time. I feel this has been the best way to deal with such a situation.
My children are very happy, excel at school, and know they are loved.
Of course, my ex and I agreed to live within a certain radius of the
school district we choose for the children so they have that stability.
Not everyone remains on friendly terms with their previous spouse, like
we have been able to do. The most important thing to remember is what is
in the best interest of the child, and although it is very hard not to
see my children everyday, I realize it is best for them to have their dad
involved like he is in their lives.
As a mother of a 2 1/2 year old and as a professional social worker
who works a great deal with divorcing/separating families, I urge you to
consult with professionals who could discuss the developmental issues facing
your child and the additional challenges/burdens that will be placed on your
young one's shoulders with each schedule choice. Their are education and
developmental experts in Psychology on campus whom may be willing to talk
with you. If you and your husband have some resources there are excellent
professionals who help parents evaluate and make decision that best fit the
needs of the child. Privately I would recommend Jackie Karkasis and Sharon
Lazaneo who have offices in Oakland. THeir number is 452-2034. Also Family
COurt Services of Alameda County is a resource if you will be filing in
Alameda (every county has one) If done thoughtfully and flexibily you can
protect your child from the more damaging aspects of divorce. I often work
with families after difficulties arise and know how destructive it can be
for the child. I hope you and your husband can take the time to carefully
educate yourselves and get an outside neutral point of view to help inform
I was in your situation and worked out something we have been using for the
past three years for our now 8 and 11 year old. We each take two of the
four week days and alternate weekends. For example, I have them Monday and
Tuesday, he has them Wednesday and Thursday, and I have them for the
weekend. Then it reverses. My main concern was not to be apart from them
for too long. This arrangement has worked out nicely and has not been
damaging or disorienting. You provide the routine and stability and they
have two loving homes.
I can't say enough for the importance of two things in your situation.
One, time with both parents is essential and it is rare to have any
significant problems associated with the "back and forth" routine when
compared to the love shared with the child by both parents. In the end,
the child is more stable having shared life with both parents as equally
as possible. I'm not sure what primary caretaker means in your
situation, and, I don't know how old your child is (just 2 or almost 3),
but I would be more than happy to talk to you regarding my experiences
with this type of situation.
TWO, never ever, under any circumstances, battle with your ex in front
of your child. If you have in the past (most do in divorce settings),
now is the time to stop. I have never belittled my ex or commented
negatively about her around (on the phone or in person) my daughter.
And, I have also never said anything negative about my ex to my
daughter. If you want to screw her up quickly, this type of behavior
puts the child in the worst place - having to take sides against one
parent or the other. Avoid this like the plague. It is grounds for the
worst to come out of the divorce. When you get that nasty letter or
phone call, bite your tongue until it bleeds before lashing out in front
of your child on the evils of your ex. Remember, we think are parents
are 100% truth - the law, the love and the God in our life at ages
1-5/6. So, how can a divorce between 100% correct parents make sense to
a 2 year old? Well, sometimes two perfectly wonderful people just are
not meant to be together. It happens. Our child is very lucky - and I
tell her that too. She has two parents who love her dearly, spend time
with her regularly (and I mean one on one personal time) and that is
more than many married families take time to provide. It is clear my ex
and I both love our daughter dearly and that is what is most important.
We split when our daughter was 3, she is now 10 and is happy and
healthy. Divorces happen, they are tragic and expensive and hurtful and
cut you all over, but you want to say when your child is 10 - I'm glad I
was married long enough to have our child. For that love is more
important in my life than the pain of divorcing out of the "wrong"
My heart goes out to you in your situation. It is a very hard time
indeed. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And it is joyful and
you can return to a happy and loving life. Pray hard and do the right
thing for your daughter.
Shared custody arrangements are, in my opinion, VERY family- and
kid-specific, and their appropriateness very difficult to decide, except
upon the subjective circumstances of each family. Some families can figure
out how to make shared custody work and some kids can cope with a 50-50
However, if the decision is put to the local family law courts,
they do not as a general rule, order 50-50 time splits for young
children.(Even where both parents are determined by the court to be "good
parents"). There was a judge in Oakland, now retired, who resisted
approving 50-50 custody for young children, even when both parents agreed
to that kind of schedule! The older the child becomes, the more likely the
court is to order/approve a 50-50 arrangement. (Child custody/visitation is
modifiable throughout the child's minority).
I believe that there has been only a modest amount of research done
in this area. As far as I am aware, the research that does exist shows
that GENERALLY speaking, nearly all kids suffer some degree of detriment
when their parents divorce; that younger kids of divorced parents suffer
less detriment from living primarily in one parent's home; and they
suffered more detriment when they were subject to a 50-50 custody schedule,
or an "unstable" schedule. The studies showed that the younger the child,
the more this holds true.
Generally speaking, of the 50-50 arrangements, the one-day-on,
one-day-off schedule was found to be the worst for the child, but other
50-50 arrangements were not found to be significantly better.
Judith Wallerstein wrote, "Second Chances". She may have published
something that is more recent. Mary Ann Mason has done a lot of work in
this general realm. Other literature, and counseling for divorced(ing)
parents/families also may be available from the Center for Families in
Transition, in San Rafael.
I got full physical and legal custody of my child when he was almost
three. I created the Marital Settlement Agreement with my son's best
interests in mind, which was to allow his father to see him four times
a week for a few hours at a time, and have one or two sleepovers a
month after 3.5 years, if the household was 'safe and adequate.'
Although my ex was very bitter over wanting joint custody and half
time, the truth is he sees his son between four and six hours one
weekend day. Sometimes, when his son wants to see him for a briefer
visit on Sunday, that happens, too.
The point here is that sometimes people don't know what they want til
it happens. And, by my son settling into the pattern of seeing his dad
once a week, he knows when and what to expect. Believe me, I would
love for them to see each other more, for a variety of reasons, but
apparently this is what my ex can handle. I was the primary caregiver
before, about 99% of the time, when my son wasn't in daycare.
Neither my son nor his dad have asked for an overnight. My son has
never asked for dad upon waking in the night. I am in favor of a
primary residence for kids this age, based on my experience. I read
everything I can get my hands on, and since my son's birth, have
completely realigned my priorities. My ex did not. So don't give in
too easily to yours now. And if you have to cave in, he may still not
avail himself of the full amount of custody time to which he is
I am considering leaving my marriage. I have a two-year old son
which makes it so emotional and difficult for so many reasons.
I am wondering who out there has been through this with such a
young child and how you got through it (if you did...). My
feeling is that my son is too young to be away from me (mama)
for more than 2, 2 1/2 days. There are also substance issues
with my husband (smoking weed) that concern me. I have not
started any ''proceedings'' but I *have* started to worry as I
think about the logisitics of it all.
Hi, I separated from my children's father (we were never
married) when my son was 2.5yr old. Our visitation schedule
was that he stays mostly with me, but does one overnight during
the week and one overnight on the weekend with Dad, plus one
evening visit. This way, his primary home is with me (to
provide stability), but he never goes more than 2 days without
seeing his dad. Also, we made the transition very gradual, so
that even after the father moved out, at first he visited every
evening till my son went to sleep and then gradually we went to
the visitation schedule. A book I found useful and very wise
was ''What About the Kids? Raising your children before,
during, and after divorce'' by Judith Wallerstein. The most
wise advice I got from this book was that children's capacity
to understand and their perception of the divorce changes as
they go from 2 to 5 to 12 to 25yrs old, etc., so make
opportunities to keep talking to them about it all through
their lives (as it does affect them even through adulthood).
For example, my son really had no clue what happened (esp. with
our gradual transition) at 2.5, but now at 4 he understands
much more. We talk about his feelings, desires, what happened
(in an age-appropriate way) about this issue, in a way that's
more substantial than when he was 2.5, whenever the opportunity
Hello. I would hope that you will do everything in your power to keep
intact if at all possible. Divorce is a horrible process for children.
If there is abuse
that is another story, if not read Divorce Busters before seeing a
mediator or lawyer
or even a marriage counselor. It may help you to see how devastating a
can be. I am also in your boat. I separated from my husband after my
two. He was nursing and cosleeping with me so there was no way he would
spend the night away from me. I also suspected drug abuse on my
Plus, I live in the primary home. I do not agree that it is beneficial
for such small
children to move back and forth out of a backpack. Schedule day visits
and keep it consistent. My son cries for his father occassionally but
he needs to be
with his mother full time. I have heard recommendations for a manny to
my son's new found agression. My two cents. If possible, save your
Toddler's Single Mom
I am seeking advice/feedback about approaches to scheduling
custody for my child in the context of divorce and a shared
Our child is 4 1/2 years old. We both are commited to active
and regular presence in our child's life. We've discussed the
Alternating weeks where my wife or I have custody for a 7 day
stretch, but the ''other'' parent is available if needed. For
example my wife works Monday and Thursday evenings until about
8:00pm. On my off weeks, I would watch our child from 5:00pm to
8:30pm at her place until she gets home. We see this as an
interim solution until the child is old enough to stay up, at
which time the child would stay at my place until she picks him
Alternatigng periods of custody, as it fits into my wife's work
Me: Mon Thurs Fri Sat.
Mon Thurs Fri
My wife: Tues Wed Sun
Tues Wed Sat Sun
This schedule fits my wife's work schedule, but subjects our
child to three transitions per week between residences. I am
concerned it will be too stressful. It does offer the benefit
of each of us seeing our child often during the week.
I am curious to learn about what works for people. How you have
arranged to meet your child's needs, stay connected with your
child, and stay sane.
A year ago I left my marriage and moved into a nearby
apartment. In the beginning things were very stressful for our
son, and we did a 2-2-3 day schedule. The schedule, IMHO, made
things worse, because with the many transitions things were
left behind at one place or another, my son was confused about
which parent he was with when, and perhaps worst of all, when
he was with me, at least, he regarded those two or three days
as ''special have-fun time'' rather than just regular work-week
Now we have switched to a alternating week schedule, and it's
so much better! Our son moves from one parent to the other on
Saturday afternoon, so each parent gets one ''weekend'' night for
adult socializing. Some time during the week (usually Weds.)
our son has dinner with the ''off'' parent, so there is scheduled
time to anticipate. And he's always welcome to call or visit
the ''off'' parent as time permits. I think that if we had
started right out with the week-on, week-off schedule it would
have worked as long as our son understood that the other parent
was still available for conversation and visits.
The other advantage with the week-on, week-off is that the
divorce seems more real and serious. With the other schedule
it seemed to my son, I think, as if we were just visiting back
and forth and waiting for the household to return to a ''normal''
(i.e., pre-divorce) state.
Good luck with whatever you decide -- it's tough at first but
will get easier.
no longer custodially challenged
It's great that you're asking and placing such a high priority
on your son's emotional welfare, and it's great that you and
your ex-wife are framing this discussion with the best
interests of your son in mind. I would definitely recommend,
of your two options, the first. And while each child is
different, and some can handle more passing back and forth that
others, I don't think your wife's work schedule should be the
driving force in this situation. Divorces are chaotic for
children, and I think it's important to create as much
stability and constancy as is possible. I think the key word
in your post was ''transitions.'' Transitions are tough on kids,
and I would think that three transitions between two households
in a week is way too much to ask of a young child already
grappling with his parent's divorce. And I know that there are
ways to stay intimately connected with your son without so much
shuffling back and forth.
My parents divorced when I was very young, and I would say
that, fifty years later, it is still the defining feature of my
first thirty years. I did not see my father very often (Sunday
afternoons every other week, very typical back then), and it
was certainly not enough and created a lot of longing on my
part. As tough as that was, and while that was not enough time
with my dad, it would have been even worse to have been bounced
around throughout the week.
And it gets much harder when the kids are older and there's
homework, sports, friendships, sleepovers involved. That may
seem like a long way off, but I think it's good to plan for the
big picture because it's really not so far off anymore.
Best of luck working everything out
Saw your post about working out a custody schedule and wanted
to offer my two cents as a stepmom whose stepchild was the same
age as yours at time of parents' divorce.
I *strongly* recommend the week-on, week-off approach. It
became our schedule and remained that way until our child went
to college. While you miss having more frequent personal
contact with the child during the 7-day stretch at the other
parent's home, you can talk on the phone each day after school
and/or at bedtime, and there are always school and sporting
events that crop up that allow for more time together, even all
3 of you.
In addition to limiting transitions, it also provides you with
adult and alone time every second weekend, which can be a
treasure, particularly after a busy week of single parenthood
and when either parent starts dating again.
One more thing: make sure you provide an entire wardrobe, set
of books/toys, etc. at each house so nothing has to be lugged
back and forth. Even if that means buying more school clothes,
games, or whatever, it is 100% worth it to have both places
truly be home rather than one primary and one secondary place.
Option 2 seems really hard for the child, too many transitions.
I read somewhere that ''they'' (whoever they are) have determined
having one home base all the time, where a high percentage of
the child's time is always spent, is best for the child. Your
Option 1 is closest to that and unlike the usual single mother
scenario, it allows you each to have sort of a life. It's nice
to see a dad giving this kind of effort and great for your kid
that you can work together.
I am very sorry for what you are going through and I applaud that you have
for advice here. I may be biased because my daughter is the same age and I
am in a
simliar situation, but I feel that too many transitions is not going to be
your child begins school next year. I have seen several of my own students
dazed and confused after spending the night away from their primary home. You
are awesome to agree to watch him at her home, so keep it up if it remains
amicable. It seems more appropriate that you stay with your son at his mom's
house until she comes home. You can transition your son into staying at your
as he gets older and more used to that idea. What would be really great is a
reconciliation if at all possible. Sorry, I had to poke that last part in!
The son of our, ahem, remodeled family will be going to
kindergarten next year, and we're thinking hard about
whether we need to change our custody schedule.
The Context: we have an amicable divorce, and a happy,
well adjusted, 50th percentile behavior kid.
Right now, we have roughly a 3/4 split, on a daily basis, I.E.
3 days with dad, 4 with mom, every week. It's more
complicated than that, but let's not go there...
We're gettting strong signals that won't work when he goes
to school, but it's not clear to me WHO that won't work for.
Teachers? They've got a tough job, god knows, but frankly,
they are not my prime concern, thank you very much. The
child his ownself?
So, fellow remodelers, what did y' all do, assuming more or
less equal custody, when Junior hit elementary school?
What worked, what was ''worth of improvement?
A Devoted Dad
You've got the right priorities when you're looking at what works best for
your family[ies], not the school. If your present arrangements don't work,
you'll realize it within the first couple of weeks of school. I don't think
any reason to change it as ''preparation'' for kindergarten. If necessary,
long enough in the school year that your child has done that basic
then change the custody arrangements later in the fall.
(Just as a practical note, in case you're not doing this already, I advise
keep pajamas, fresh clothing, and basic toys at both houses. Then, your
kindergartener will only be hauling ''special'' items -- along with school
back and forth during the school day.)
I'm in exactly the same boat, but a year ahead of you. So far
this year no issues specific to our split family have come up.
There are some logistic things-making sure assignments and
events are communicated to both sides, etc. There has been no
negative feedback from teacher or our son, so I can't think of
any reason for it not working unless someone no longer wants it
Mind you, our current situation is the result of much mediating
and money, and there was no hint from our mediater that the
split would be unworkable, or even have any negative effects.
If things are good now they should be good in a year.
We had about 10 days Mom, 4 days Dad per each 2 weeks when my
daughter started Kindergarten. In the 5 years since, we have
very slowly moved towards 1/2 each -- we currently have 8 days
mom, 6 days dad. It works fine. I've heard (and used!) the
arguement that a very young child needs the security of ''most''
time at one stable home. But in my experiences with therapist,
psychiatrists, mediators, and lawyers, they generally tend to
encourage as much time as possible with each parent. Although
we have had our share of disagreements around custody, none of
them had anything to do with school. I can't imagine why that
would make any difference at all.
Give it your best shot and then resolve to be flexible. You will
probably need to make changes as you go along. We started out with
4days, 3 days. We live within 1 mile of each other. By the 4th
grade, we found a split-week schedule to be causing more problems than
it solved. There was more homework, more papers going home, music
lessons where the instrument was at the wrong house on the wrong
day. The schools are usually not set up to send duplicate papers to
two houses so a high degree of communication and coordination is
needed if the weekdays are split between 2 houses. In our case this was
difficult to sustain over time. It was complicated by a kid who knew
how to work the system, telling one parent the homework was at the
other parent's house to get out of doing it. He even occasionally
played hooky by setting out for school and then going to the other
parent's house after everybody had left for work. So we eventually
figured out to have him at the house with the most supervision during
the week (mom worked at home), and then going to the other house
Friday after school. The downside is one parent only sees the kids on
weekends, and the other parent never gets to have downtime with the
kids on the weekends. However if you are flexible you can work in
weekday dinners with the weekend parent and Saturday afternoon get-
togethers with the week-day parent.
For us the benefits outweighed
the disadvantages. Here are the benefits: there was regular
monitoring by one parent of all the school related activities, the
teachers knew who to call, all the school papers came to one place,
there was no confusion about who was supposed to be where when, and
plus the kids' friends knew to call the mom's house during the week
and the dad's house on the weekend (not a trivial issue as they get
older.) The dad did not like seeing the kids less, but in terms of
the kids general welfare we both agreed that it worked much better
this way once we all got used to it. And in the summer and on holidays
you can reverse weekdays/weekend houses.
My (ex) partner and I are trying to work out a shared custody schedule for our
daughters, who are five and seven. We are having a heck of a time -- who
the week should have an uneven number of days, anyway?
So I'm wondering what other parents have done. . .
We want as close to 50/50 custody as we can arrange; we want to alternate
weekends if possible, and we don't want either too many or too few transitions
and forth each week. Although in many ways a week on/week off schedule would
be ideal, it's simply too long for the girls to be away from either parent (and
long for the parents too!).
Please let me know what you've done, or what you've heard others do. I'd
I share custody of my now 11 year old daughter with her dad,
and have since she was an infant. By the time she started
kindergarten, we moved to a 50/50 routine that has worked
reasonably well. Like you, I did not want a one-week-on, one-
week-off routine--for many reasons including the fact that it
was too long and also that if I had regular weeknights off, I
could do a class or whatever. So we do a 2-2-5-5: I have her
every Monday and Tuesday nights; her dad has her every
Wednesday and Thursday nights, and we alternate weekends from
Friday to Monday. Most of her transitions now occur at
school. Good luck to you. rita
I had the same situation you describe. The transitions were hard
on my child when we tried to split the week and it seemed he was
always comming or going. Homework was a mess because it started
the week at one house and ended at another. I had the end part
of the week and got stuck with the undone homework from the
beginning. If he had a class one day a week then that parent was
always stuck taking him. Also, I didn't want him to be gone all
week and it was too long for him too.
Finally we opted for 1 week on and 1 week off + Wednesday
evening of the week off. There were no transition issues because
it was mostly a matter of picking him up from afterschool care,
taking him out (or home) to dinner, doing some homework if
necessary, but having him home in time for whatever
homework/bedtime schedule the other parent had set. We got to
see each other mid-week in a sort of ''treat'' like time. I liked
taking him out because it was a very focused time with him and I
also got a break on my single parent ''on'' week. We also got
first dibs on ''babysitting'' if the other parent had something to
do. He's now 15 and we're still doing this and it works - he's
really used to it.
every other week mom
I've heard of a concept called perhaps ''nesting'' (?) where the
children stay in the family house and the PARENTS rotate from the
family house to an apartment that both parents use. When I first
heard of this it sounded so radical but makes sense - why ask the
kids to uproot themselves because you decide to divorce? Not that
divorce is a decision you take lightly, but it's a way to protect
your most important, vulnerable and dependent assets, your children.
Here is the arrangement we had: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday night and one
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday night at the other house. Saturday switched
transitions occurred on Wednesdays (usually after school) and then on
Saturday morning or Sunday evening depending on whose weekend it was.
The main advantage was that you could plan events knowing where the kids
be based on the day of the week and the kids could keep track of where they
supposed to be the same way. This was sometimes a disadvantage in that it
that some things always happened at one house. We were able to provide
flexibility in trading if things came up.
As the kids got older, it felt like too many transitions and week-to-week
been better, but it was so entrenched at that point that we couldn't
other parent or the kids themselve to change it.
I know other people have had Monday, Tuesday at one house, Wednesday,
at the other house and alternating Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It's
essentially 5 days,
2 days, 2 days, 5 days, which would have been too many transitions for us.
days never felt like it would be long enough for the kids to settle in.
Good luck figuring out what works for your family!
Done with custody
I have friends who are divorced and co-parent, have 50/50 share and have
other weekend. It works like this: Dad always has Monday and Tuesday,
always has Wednesday and Thursday; Friday, Saturday and Sunday alternate
between Mom and Dad. This way the child never goes longer than five days
seeing the other parent and there is a lot of support for a phone call to
parents house if the child wants it.
Hope this helps,
My ex-husband and I tried different variations on the split week
-- in general they would be at one house for 3 days, and then the
other house for 4 days. His job was less flexible so I would
often pick them up from school and spend the afternoon with them
even on the days when they were at his house. We tried to arrange
things so that we each got them one day out of the weekend. When
they got to high school, and they could get around town on their
own, the schedule became much more flexible, and we'd informally
agree on changes from month to month. At one point, the two kids
were not getting along at all and fighting a lot, so we made a
schedule where we each had one of them for one week, and then
traded. In retrospect, the 4 days on and 3 days off was a bad
schedule for a school-aged child, or at least for our school-aged
kids. The main reason we did it that way was because neither mom
nor dad wanted to go more than 4 days without seeing the kids.
But I don't believe it was really in the best interest of the
kids. Neither of the kids was organized enough to plan for
musical instruments, sports equipment, homework, long-term school
projects switching back and forth between houses. So, the
homework goes home on dad's day, but it's due on mom's day and is
still over at dad's, not even started yet. The karate class is on
dad's day but the uniform is in the dirty clothes hamper at mom's
house. There were a lot of little problems like this all the
time, and they were compounded by chilly relations between dad
and mom, and the kids' general tendency to be disorganized and
forgetful. I believe it really had a negative effect on their
school performance. Who knows, maybe they would have been poor
students anyway, but it can't have helped. I wish we could have
worked something out that had more structure where the kids were
primarily at one house, still seeing the other parent frequently.
Probably neither parent would have agreed to that, but I do think
it would have been more beneficial for the kids.
As a family law attorney, I can tell you that a great shared
custody arrangement is the ''2-2-3/2-2-3'' schedule. Over a 14 day
period, it works like this:
Mon and Tuesday with Mom
Wed and Thurs with Dad
Fri Sat Sun with Mom
Mon and Tues with Dad
Wed and Thurs with Mom
Fri Sat Sun with Dad
This system assures the kids go no longer than 3 days without the
other parent and weekends are shared. You might also want to use
a ''yahoo groups'' calander to keep track of who has what days and
also post doctor appointment and birthday parties, school
He is moving out. How do we figure out how much time our kids
spend with whom and when? I want to have them a little more than
he does initially, just because I have been their primary
caregiver forever. The girls are almost 7 and almost 11 years
old. I am thinking maybe I could have them from Wednesday
afternoon (a day I normally pick them up early from school) to
Sunday morning, and maybe we could hang out a bit Sunday morning
all together sometimes, so they can see we are working to get
along and support them together. Then he could take them
Sunday-Weds. But is that too disruptive? I am just having so
much trouble even imagining a single night away from them, a week
sounds like way too long...but I want to be fair to them, too.
And to him (working towards eventually having them 50/50,
especially if they want that). What have you done that worked?
There is no single parenting time arrangement that works best
for all families. The important thing, at this pointe,
especially for the well-being of your children, is for you and
your husband to receive some counseling about the issues
involved in setting up a parenting time arrangement and making
it work. Just of few of the key issues to consider are: (a)
the nature of the children's relationship with each of you in
the past, (b)any special needs the children may have that might
be more easily met by one of you, (c)the capacity of the two of
you to communicate & cooperate with each other, (d)the
children's views and needs, (e) the ability to be flexible and
alter the schedule as the children's views/needs change, or as
the parents' circumstances change, and (f) logistics (i.e.,
where each of you will live and where the children go to
school, etc). Keep in mind that the most important factors in
children's long-term well-being following divorce is not the
divorce per se, but the quality parent-child relationships and
the quality of post-divorce parental relationships. A few good
books to read include: C.Ahrons, The Good Divorce; Keeping
your family together when your marriage comes apart; E.
Taylor, Helping children cope with divorce; P.Stahl, Parenting
after divorce: A guide for resolving conflicts and meeting
your children's needs.
This is really hard, and you have my sympathy. I have been
separated and now divorced from my ex-husband for nearly two
years. We have one eleven-year-old son. We agreed from the
beginning that we would do 50/50 custody, though this was in
part because I left and because my ex did a lot of childcare.
It was hard for both my ex and me to miss time with my son, and
hard for my son, too. But what we found is that dividing up
the week is way too hard. At first we had a 2-2-3 day
schedule, and it was stressful and hard to manage, especially
for our son. Now we have one week with mom, next week with
dad, switching off on Saturdays. On Wednesday the ''off'' parent
gets to have our son. This has been working reasonably well.
A lot will depend on what your children's father wants (he has
a right to ask for half-time custody unless there are
mitigating circumstances, as I understand it) and how your
daughters feel. It would be best to consult with you husband
and perhaps a mediator to talk about options. Other things to
consider: birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc. I wish you the
best of luck.
What we did when we seperated was and still is in effect after 10
years: Our daughter is with me most of the time. She's with her
dad every other weekend and every Wednesday night. When she
turned 10 she wanted to see him more so we added every other
Thursday night (on the week that she spent the weekend with me).
It's been fine. She sometimes feels like she's going back and
forth a bit and will leave things at her dad's house that she
needs at my house, but for the most part we made sure she had
enough clothes, toys, books, stuffed animals at both houses. We
always felt that if we needed to change it we would, that it
wasn't etched in stone. You might try it one way and then change
it if you need to. Especially with two kids you might want to
make time where each of you has time with the kids seperatly.
FYI, in order claim Head of Household on your taxes, you have to
have your kids at least 51% of the time. So, I do that and he
takes her as a deduction.
My parents split 26 years ago, when I was 8 years-old, and my
siblings were 12 and 13. They shared custody 50-50, and we kids
went back and forth between them every Sunday evening. Even
though our parents lived just a few miles apart, the changing
of houses was always extraordinarily stressful: we had to pack
up our stuff and readjust to a new home-culture every single
week different rules, different meals, different levels of
organization & cleanliness, etc. We were always unsettled on
the first Monday at school. And, as Sundays approached, we'd
have this imminent feeling that we were going to betray the
parent we were leaving, who would invariably radiate sadness at
our nearing departure. Finally, after almost 10 years of this,
as a senior in high school, I asked to change the arrangement
to 2-months-2-months, and everything was much improved. I had a
chance to just BE in one place for a while. To settle in. To
unpack my clothes and get used to being in one place or
another. I still saw the other parent for dinner or breakfast
once a week or so. And although I dont know this for sure, I
think it was easier for my parents too. They could plan longer-
term things for themselves, and if they ever missed me, theyd
just call and see if I could share a meal with them. So, for
what its worth, Id recommend that your kids change homes less
frequently rather than more frequently. (BTW, all three of us
grew up and got married and had kids and are basically fine!).
this page was last updated: Oct 20, 2013
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network