The schedule that determines when the child or children of a divorced or separated couple will be with each parent is called the parenting time-share plan. Figuring out the time-share schedule is a crucial part of the child custody process. It is important that each parent be able to work with the other effectively so that they can develop a time-share plan that will diminish conflicts between them, but most importantly, will serve the best interests of their children.
The most common type of custody awarded in California is joint custody. This is because the State recognizes that a child will benefit more from involvement from both parents in their lives. However, joint custody does not necessarily mean that each parent gets equal time. The law defining joint custody actually states that each parent must have significant periods of physical custody, and must have frequent and continuing contact with their children. There are many ways that parents can engineer their custody plan.
How Child Custody Can Be Split
The most common custody split used to be 20%, where the children would spend every other weekend, shared holidays, and vacation time with the non-custodial parent (usually father), and the rest of the time with the custodial parent (usually mother).
This arrangement is becoming less common, however, because many parents and courts are choosing to divide custody in a more equal manner. Some choose simply alternate weeks with, for example, the child residing at Parent 1’s house from Sunday at 6pm to the following Sunday at 6pm, then the child goes to Parent 2’s house until the following Sunday at 6pm. Another common solution is the 2-2-5-5 plan, where a child spends two days with Parent 1, two days with Parent 2, five days with Parent 1, and five days with Parent 2. The cycle, which covers a two-week period, then repeats.
What to Consider when Developing a Parenting Time-Share Plan
Although each parenting time-share plan is unique, there are some very important factors that all parents should consider. First and foremost, the plan should be tailored to fit the best interests and needs of the child. Do you have an infant, for instance, who might not deal with constant changes of location very well? Do you have a pre-teen or a teen who is involved in a multitude of after school activities? What type of plan will best fit your child’s needs?
Regardless of how much you might not like your former spouse, you should work amicably to develop a plan that works best for your children (even if it means dealing with someone who drives you crazy). If you cannot cooperate with your former spouse to form a time-share plan that you can both agree on, the Court will make the decision for you. This is the least ideal situation because the Court does not know you or your child. Since you and the other parent know your child, you are in the best situation to consider your child’s best interests if you are able to develop your own co-parenting plan.
Marin County Superior Court Parenting Time-Share Guidelines
The Marin County Superior Court has time-share guidelines in place to help calculate child support, although the court also has discretion to modify the guidelines. It might be helpful to look at the guidelines to get a sense of some time-share plan examples. These guidelines are codified in Rule 7.14 of the local Family Court Rules, and makes the following time breakdowns:
- Alternating full weekends (Friday after school to Monday before school) = 78 days, or 20%
- Alternating short weekends (Friday for dinner to Sunday after dinner) = 52 days, or 15%
- Alternating full weekend + one month in summer = 78 days + 24 days = 102 days, or 30%
- One full weekend per month = 10%
- Three days per week = 45%
- Four days per week = 55%
Think carefully about the needs of your child before working with the other parent on a time-share plan. Remain open and flexible during the process. Always keep in mind that this isn’t about you, it is about your children.
NOTE: This advice is not applicable in situations where one parent suffers from drug and/or alcohol abuse problems, or there are issues of domestic violence.
Warren Major LLP is a Marin County CA family law firm specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues.
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