Four Tips for Managing a Custody Schedule
When you're divorced or separated with kids, deciding on a custody schedule is one of the most important elements of your parenting agreement to determine. A custody schedule will detail when and how often your kids will be spending time with both you and your co-parent. Every family has a different agenda, so there is not one particular custody schedule pattern that will work for everyone. As co-parents, you must determine the scheduling pattern that best fits the needs of your family and find a way to manage it. Here are four tips for managing a custody schedule.
Get It Documented
It is so easy for things to get lost in the shuffle when parenting across two homes. One thing that you don't want to lose track of is your custody schedule. More than simply knowing whose night it is to have the kids, you need to remember the dates and times that you have scheduled to exchange custody. Not remembering this information can be a catalyst for conflict between co-parents. Moreover, depending on your parenting agreement, being late for a custody exchange can result in penalties that you won't want to face.
Instead of trying to keep track of your schedule just in your head, get it documented in a place that you can easily access as frequently as you need to. While paper calendars might work well for a single person's schedule, an online shared calendar is a great tool for families who must manage a shared custody schedule across two homes. On your calendar, lay out the bones of your custody schedule by assigning overnight custody dates to both yourself and your co-parent. Also note the times that you will be exchanging custody on your calendar. You'll want these small but important details all in one place so that it takes little effort on your part to keep this information in mind.
Don't Forget The Holidays
Determining a holiday custody schedule is one of the most important but easily overlooked pieces of a parenting agreement. Holidays can often call for special arrangements when it comes to custody in order to accommodate the plans that your family has set up. They can also be a point of contention between co-parents when they both want to spend a particular holiday with the kids. Holidays are stressful enough without the drama of having to determine the custody schedule on top of everything else. For that reason, determining your holiday custody schedule well ahead of time will be important.
During the process of deciding on your regular custody schedule pattern, be sure to schedule custody over the holidays. Start with the holidays over the upcoming year, then continue scheduling as far out as you can. Like your regular custody schedule, you'll probably find that you'll work off a another scheduling pattern such as rotating holiday custody every other year. Also, remember that holiday custody doesn't always adjust the schedule for just the date of the actual holiday. Some holiday celebrations span an entire weekend or longer. More than just common holidays, school holidays can create scheduling issues that need to be worked out. Don't forget to consider times like Spring Break and summer vacation, and discuss how to best handle those long holidays given you and your co-parent's personal schedules. Mark these on your calendar in a way that makes them stick out among your other dates. This will help you to identify them quickly and be more prepared when they finally arrive.
Help The Kids Understand
Acclimating to a custody schedule is tough for any person, but it can be particularly difficult for kids. They probably have little to no understanding as to why their parents are not together anymore or why they can't all live in one place anymore. While getting used to their new living situation will take some time, simply knowing what to expect each day will help make the transition easier to cope with.
Make the custody schedule available to your kids in a way that is easy for them to understand. Print a color-coded version of your calendar to hang on your kitchen fridge or on a wall in their bedroom. Make it an inviting calendar that's easy for your kids to understand by letting them participate in decorating it. Stickers, little doodles, or other special icons can make the calendar more interesting to kids. Go over the calendar with your kids regularly. Talk through the schedule to help remind them of what is coming up. Doing this will make kids–especially young kids–more comfortable with the shared custody schedule.
Use The Right Tools
Your shared family calendar will quickly become an asset that you rely on to help you manage your custody schedule. For that reason, it is important that you choose a calendar that fits your needs now and into the future.
At OurFamilyWizard®, we recognize the need for customizable family calendars and custody schedules. The OFW® calendar is equipped with tools that let you post your personalized custody schedule in a matter of seconds. Whether you share custody time equally or go with a different scheduling pattern, the OFW® calendar has your schedule covered. Using the parenting schedule tool, your custody schedule as defined by your parenting agreement is color-coded and displayed above each date box on the calendar. The color-coding makes it simple for you to quickly identify which days you have custody without completely taking over your calendar. This leaves space to document other important elements of your schedule such as events for the kids and holidays. The parenting schedule tool will also rotate your general repeating pattern at the appropriate interval for as long as you schedule it for. This is especially helpful if you go with a 70/30 schedule, a 60/40 schedule, a 5th weekend schedule, or another pattern that isn't easy to keep track of. Better yet: your calendar is available to you wherever you might be via the OFW® mobile apps for iPhone, Android and Kindle Fire. No matter your skill-level when it comes to online calendaring, OurFamilyWizard® offers customer support by email and phone, and helpful links that give you the information you need to create your online shared custody schedule.
Keeping your family organized and informed are important parts of managing a shared custody schedule. Make it easier for you to manage by getting your schedule down on your calendar, remembering to get your holiday custody plan marked on the schedule. Help make acclimating to the schedule easier for the kids by setting up a calendar that's easy for them to access and understand. Finally, do yourself a favor by using a calendar that is equipped with the tools you need to easily create and manage your schedule.
The suite of calendaring tools available on the OurFamilyWizard® website are sure to have what you need to conveniently manage your custody schedule. Why not take a step towards more easily managing your custody schedule and sign up for the OurFamilyWizard® website today.
NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.
Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.