Alternating Weeks in Your Custody Plan

Mother and daughter smiling

For co-parents with 50/50 physical custody, alternating weeks is the simplest parenting schedule available. When following this arrangement, children spend one week with one parent and then one week with the other. This can simplify the scheduling of changeovers immensely.  

As with all parenting schedules, however, it’s not without its drawbacks. To help you decide whether or not alternating weeks is a good fit for your family, here are some of the major benefits and disadvantages of this simple parenting schedule.

Benefits of alternating weeks in your custody plan

Because of its simplicity, alternating weeks in your custody plan creates a consistent and clear schedule. Repeating schedules often allow both co-parents and children to quickly acclimate to their new routine, making the transition from former daily habits much smoother.

Some co-parents have even switched to two-week alternating schedules because they like the consistency, the reduced number of changeovers, and the extended period of time that they have with their children.

The infrequency of changeovers is a major benefit of alternating weeks in your parenting schedule. If co-parents have high-conflict communication or struggle with navigating changeovers without tension, parenting schedules with more frequent exchanges may put them in contact with each other too frequently. With an alternating weeks parenting schedule, parents reduce their changeovers to only four per month on average.

Parenting schedules with more frequent changeovers are also much more complicated, increasing the likelihood for miscommunication and crossed-wires. With a more confusing schedule, it may be more difficult for the co-parents and children to keep track of when they are supposed to switch between homes.

Drawbacks of alternating weeks in your custody plan

While alternating weeks may be an easy schedule to follow, it also means that your child must go a whole week without seeing one of their parents.  This may be fine for some children but for others, it may be far too long.

Typically, the appropriateness of alternating weeks depends largely on age. Pre-teens and teenagers may be able to handle alternating weeks in your custody plan better than younger children.

For younger children, it is important for them to interact often with both co-parents because it can affect their growth and development. Parents who adopt a one or two-week alternating schedule could be inadvertently causing younger children unnecessary stress.

Special events such as holidays and extracurricular activities can pose problems when scheduling. These events are likely already divided between you and your co-parent in your parenting plan. But if you have the child for the week when your co-parent has the child for a holiday on that Tuesday, for example, this would cut into your parenting time. You and your co-parent should have a plan for whether or not you want to make up time when this happens.

Sometimes co-parents will add their own variations to alternating week schedules. They may choose to give the other parent one mid-week evening. If this is not enough, some parents have turned this one evening into an overnight visit. Typically, co-parents will still refer to this as an alternating week schedule simply because, for the most part, it is. If the custody plan begins to become more complicated than that, however, it may turn into a different type of alternating schedule.

Pros and Cons Recap

Benefits of alternating weeks

  • Longer periods of time together
  • Less frequent changeovers
  • Simple and easy to follow
  • Easier acclimation for both parents and children

Cons to alternating weeks

  • Longer periods of time away from both parents
  • Not as well suited for younger children

Every parenting schedule has its benefits and drawbacks, and that can make choosing a pattern that’s right for your family difficult. Be sure to explore the different options available and, if possible, discuss them with your co-parent or family law professional.  

The OurFamilyWizard website® has been helping co-parents organize and manage their custody schedules for years with tools and resources like the color-coded shared parenting calendar and the expense log. For more information on how the OurFamilyWizard website® can help with alternating weeks in your custody plan, please visit the co-parenting solutions page.