Common Co-Parenting Schedules and How to Pick the Best Option for your Family

Negotiating children’s arrangements can be one of the most difficult and painful aspects of any separation. Regardless of whether separation is amicable or not, it is important for parents to define a clear co-parenting schedule for parenting arrangements, set boundaries, bring stability to their children’s lives, and reduce conflict down the track.

Every family is different and has differing needs, therefore there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to devising schedules for parenting arrangements. Rather they should be based around a family’s needs, while causing as little disruption as possible to their children’s lives —what’s in the best interests of the child, should always come first.

While there’s no single way arrangements are set out, there are several common co-parenting schedules parents do use.

Week on, week off – Alternative weeks

A common solution for many families is a week about schedule. This arrangement allows the child to live with one parent for a full week, before switching houses, usually at the conclusion of school on a Friday, and spending the following week at the alternate parent’s home.

Common co-parenting schedules
Week on, week off works well for older kids. Source: Bigstock

This arrangement works best for older children who are better able to cope with longer periods apart from either parent. An alternative week schedule is most successful for the children if both parents live in close proximity to one another, and to the child’s school, enabling the child to remain close to friends, and easily access extracurricular activities.

The 2-2-5 Plan 

This plan can work well to achieve an equal time arrangement, whilst allowing the children to have more frequent time with each parent. It can provide predictability and stability for younger children as they know that they will always be with one parent every Monday and Tuesday.

This arrangement also means that parents can plan weekly extracurricular activities for children on their nights. This can be very useful in curtailing a common source of conflict that can arise when parents do not agree about the types of extracurricular activities children should participate in or are not able to accommodate their attendance.

With this arrangement, the children are able to enjoy a full weekend with both parents.

Here’s an example of the 2-2-5 Plan:

Week A

  • Monday, Tuesday – Parent A
  • Wednesday, Thursday – Parent B
  • Friday to Sunday – Parent A

Week B

  • Monday, Tuesday – Parent A
  • Wednesday, Thursday – Parent B
  • Friday to Sunday – Parent B

The two-two-five plan works well for scheduling and planning ahead as parents can be certain of which house the child will be at depending on the night of the week.

Alternating weeks with a visit in between

Another appealing option for families with younger children is to employ the alternative week arrangement, but to include either a midweek dinner, or overnight with the other parent on their off week. This arrangement can work well for younger children who struggle to go a whole week without seeing one of their parents.

Common co-parenting schedules
An extra day with mum and dad during the off-week is often suitable for younger children. Source: Bigstock

For example, one parent might have the child for Monday through Sunday, but the child has dinner or spends the night on a Wednesday with the other parent. In this scenario the child is only separated from a parent from Sunday to Wednesday, and then from Wednesday to Sunday, when it’s time for changeover.

Alternative weekends

For some families a co-parenting arrangement is one where a child predominantly resides with one parent, spending time with the second parent every second weekend. This arrangement works well if parents live further away from each other.

Ideally, children should also have the opportunity to spend some midweek time with both parents, but this is not always possible due to some parent’s work or living arrangements.

A more common alternative weekend arrangement is one which is extended to between 3 to 5 days, enabling the children to have the benefit of both parents having involvement in their schooling and extracurricular activities.

School Holidays

If parents live a significant distance from one another, the options are slightly more limited for co-parenting arrangements. In this case, parents might look to have the child live with one parent during the school term, and spend time with the other parent during school holidays and long weekends.

This option depends greatly on the child’s age and is based on the location of both parents.

While these are some of the most common co-parenting schedules, each family will have to consider what is appropriate for their child based on age and developmental needs and what works for their living arrangements due to location and professional demands.

A good co-parenting schedule will always consider the following:

  • The needs and wants of the child, including their living preference
  • Each parent’s working situation and hours
  • How much time each parent will spend with the child
  • The methods for communication between parents
  • How changeovers will occur
  • How special occasions and holidays will be shared
  • The children’s school and extracurricular schedule
  • How each parent can communicate with the children when not in their care
  • A plan for decisions to be made in emergencies
  • How you will make big decisions (e.g., medical, education, etc.)
common co-parenting schedules
Source: Bigstock

While some parents can amicably agree on children’s arrangements and their co-parenting schedule moving forward, others may struggle to reach an agreement and will require the support of a mediator or lawyer.

If an agreement is unable to be reached privately, mediation, or an application to the Court for parenting orders, will become necessary.

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mum centralWritten by Annelis Bos, Partner at Coote Family Lawyers.

Annelis is an Accredited Specialist in Family Law.  She is a member of the Law Institute of Victoria, the Law Council of Australia, Family Law Section.  She presents regularly to the Profession on numerous aspects of the Family Law Act.

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