By Robert M. Going, Attorney
Divorce is never easy, particularly when children are involved. In cases of divorce, Pennsylvania courts consider a number of factors when awarding child custody, all revolving around what is in the best interest of the child.
If you are divorcing and you have minor children, you will need to establish a custody agreement. This written document maps out custody schedules and resolves all issues related to child custody and visitation. Ideally, you and your spouse will be able to negotiate this agreement yourselves, or with the help of a qualified attorney. A judge will review and approve the agreement to ensure it is in the child’s best interests. However, if you cannot negotiate successfully, a judge will make the decisions for you.
Although agreements can vary from case to case, a standard custody agreement should cover some key issues:
- Provisions for physical custody, meaning where the child will live.
- Provisions for legal custody, meaning who will make important decisions about the child’s welfare and upbringing.
- A child visitation schedule that parents are legally obligated to follow. It will establish a routine for how the child will spend time with each parent.
- Provisions for how the parents will handle important decisions in the child’s life.
- Rules for the care and custody of the child.
- A clause on how parents can make changes to the custody agreement, should the need arise.
When it comes to establishing a schedule for custody and visitation, you have some flexibility to create an arrangement that best fits your child’s needs and your situation. We’ve listed some common custody schedules below.
Types of 50/50 Custody and Visitation Schedules
A 50/50 schedule allows both parents to share equally in the care of the child, and it gives the child an opportunity to develop a close relationship with both parents. Here are six common examples:
The alternating weeks’ schedule is a 50/50 residential custody schedule where the child spends one week with one parent, and the next week with the other parent. This child custody arrangement allows parents to spend equal and longer periods with the child. However, it also requires both parents to live reasonably close to one another and to the child’s school, and parents and/or the child may struggle to be apart for an entire week.
2 Weeks Each
The child spends two weeks with one parent, then two weeks with the other parent. This child custody arrangement provides a more stable living environment with fewer exchanges and gives parents the ability to live farther apart if the child is not yet in school. However, both parent and child may struggle with two-week separations, and the child must adapt to living in two different homes.
The 3-4-4-3 Custody Schedule
This arrangement allows the child to spend three days of the week with one parent and four days with the other parent. The following week, the first parent has the child for four days and the other parent for three. This child custody arrangement is very structured and allows each parent to have the child the same days every week except one. However, one parent may have the child every weekend, and the parents must be able to communicate well about school and activities.
The 2-2-5-5 Schedule
In this 50/50 residential custody schedule, the child lives two days with one parent, two days with the other parent, then five days with the first parent and five days with the second parent. This child custody schedule allows the child to spend time with both parents each week. It can work well for parents with non-traditional work schedules and children who are not yet school age. However, there are frequent exchanges that may make it difficult for children to adapt, and parents of school-age children must live close to each other and the school.
The 2-2-3 Schedule
This is another 50/50 residential schedule. The child lives two days with one parent, the next two days with the other parent, then three days with the first parent. The schedule switches the following week, which allows children to spend time with both parents each week. It’s an arrangement that can work well for children who are not in school. However, parents must be able to communicate well to handle the frequent exchanges, and children may not like switching homes so often.
Alternating Every 2 Day
The alternating every two days schedule is a 50/50 residential custody schedule that has the child living with one parent for two days, then switching for two days. It is also known as two days on, two days off. This custody agreement ensures each parent sees the child frequently and is more popular for families with younger children. However, if you live far away from your ex, or if your child is school-aged or older, the constant switching may be too disruptive to be practical.
Types of 60/40 Custody and Visitation Schedules
With a 60/40 schedule, the child spends 60 percent of the time with one parent and 40 percent with the other. It works well if both parents want to spend substantial time with the child but want fewer exchanges. Here are some common types of 60/40 custody schedules:
Every Extended Weekend
The child spends weekdays with one parent and a long weekend with the other parent. This child custody arrangement offers consistency for children who struggle with change. It helps work around childcare and school calendars and does not require parents to live close to one another. However, one child has a different parent every weekend, and the structure may be difficult for some work schedules.
The 4-3 Schedule
The child spends four days a week with one parent and the other three days with the other parent. This child custody arrangement e allows for a lot of structure and for both parents to take part in the daily care of the child. However, children may have a hard time moving from home to home. Parents must communicate well and live close to each other and the child’s school.
Types of 70/30 Custody and Visitation Schedules
With a 70/30 custody schedule, one parent has the child 70 percent of the time, and the other parent has the child 30 percent of the time. This type of arrangement works best for children who do better with one home base or for parents who live far apart. Here are some examples:
This residential custody schedule allows the child to spend weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other. It offers a lot of structure and routine with limited exchanges. It also works well for parents who do not get along, since it does not require them to live close to one another or communicate frequently. One the other hand, one parent has the child every weekend and misses out on the weekday/school routine. This could be modified to allow a parent to have two out of every three weekends.
The 5-2 Schedule
The child lives five days with one parent and then two days with the other. This child custody arrangement can be customized so that the schedule starts on any day, allowing it to work well with a variety of work situations. The child is also able to spend time with both parents during the week. However, if there are mid-week exchanges, parents must live nearby and be able to communicate about school and other activities.
Every Third Week
The 70/30 residential custody schedule allows the child to spend two weeks with one parent and then one week with the other parent. This arrangement avoids frequent exchanges. It will enable both parents to be involved in the child’s weekday activities and can work well if one parent frequently travels for work. However, children and parents can struggle with long periods away from one another. It works best when both parents live near the child’s school and communicate with one another about homework and other activities.
Every Third Day
The child lives with one parent for two days, and the other parent for one day. This child custody arrangement can work well for toddlers and young children. It allows both parents to spend time with the child on weekdays and weekends and ensures the child will not go long periods without seeing either parent. However, the schedule changes constantly and requires the parents to coordinate frequent exchanges, which the child may find disruptive.
Types of 80/20 Custody and Visitation Schedules
The child spends 80 percent of their time with one parent and 20 percent with the other. This arrangement may work best when one parent has been the primary caretaker, a parent travels frequently, or a child prefers one home. Here are some examples:
The child lives with one parent and visits the other parent every other weekend. This child custody arrangement offers a consistent arrangement for the child with few exchanges. It’s helpful if one parent has a busy work schedule or travels frequently. However, the child goes a long time without seeing one parent, and that parent may not be very involved in the child’s school and other activities. Some mid-week times can be added weekly or on alternating weeks.
1st, 3rd and 5th Weekends
The child lives with one parent and spends the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends with the other. This child custody arrangement can work in high-conflict situations because there are few exchanges. There is also flexibility in the length of weekend visits. However, the rigid weekend schedule can conflict with sporting events and activities for school-age children. Additionally, a parent who has the child only on weekends misses out on the daily routine and other weekday activities.
2nd, 4th and 5th Weekends
The child lives with one parent and visits the other parent on the 2nd, 4th, and 5th weekends of the month. This child custody arrangement works for parents who have different work schedules or live a long distance from one another, but it has many of the same disadvantages of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends schedule.
Every 3rd weekend
This 80/20 residential custody schedule enables the child to live with one parent and visits the other parent every third weekend. This child custody arrangement works for children who need a lot of consistency and do better in a single home, as well as for parents who live far apart. However, since it is actually more of an 85/15 schedule, one parent has substantially less time with the child, which may be difficult for both the child and the parent.
Long-Distance and Out of State
With a long-distance custody schedule, the child will live with one parent and visit the other. The frequency and length of the visits can be flexible. Timeframes will factor in school calendars, distance, and cost of travel. With this child custody arrangement, a school-age child might visit the noncustodial parent for more extended periods when he has a spring break or a three-day weekend. Parents might split or alternate holidays. Long-distance custody does require a plan for who will arrange and pay for travel and should also include a schedule for regular phone and video calls.
Making a Summer Break Schedule
During summer break, parents have the option of changing the residential custody schedule since they do not need to plan around school. Depending on the existing child custody schedule, it could mean giving one parent a majority of the summer break with the child, choosing a completely different residential custody option for the summer months, or keeping the current custody arrangement but scheduling vacation time with both parents. If parents are changing their custody arrangement for the summer, they should be precise about the dates when the summer schedule will start and end.
Third-Party Time in Your Custody Schedule
You may want to include custody parameters for the time the child spends away from either parent. Third-party time might consist of the child’s time in school, daycare, or a grandparent visit. Calculating third-party time can offer a more accurate accounting of actual parenting time for each parent. For instance, a 70/30 every weekend arrangement may seem unbalanced to the weekend parent. However, it may be closer to 60/40 when daycare or school hours are subtracted.
Every family situation is different. Creating a custody agreement that best suits the child and satisfies all parties can be challenging. The Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster can help, whether your custody case requires simple mediation or more aggressive litigation.
Every family situation is different. Creating a custody agreement that best suits the child and satisfies all parties can be challenging. The Law Offices of Going and Plank in downtown Lancaster can help, whether your custody case requires simple mediation or more aggressive litigation. Contact us today.
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