There is no right way to determine parenting time in a divorce. Even the amount of time each parent gets with their children varies from case to case. Though it is based on statute, parenting time in divorce is still subjectively decided, negotiated and specific to the family in question.
And just when we think we know how it’s going to go, new details and circumstances introduce curve balls.
For instance, many divorce agreements stipulate that the mother always enjoys parenting time with the children on Mother’s Day and the father always has the children on Father’s Day, but what happens when it’s a same-sex couple splitting up?
Likewise, some parents want their children with them on their birthday, while others could care less. Same goes for the children’s birthdays. Many couples let the birthdays fall where they may on the calendar and celebrate with their children on the closest day to the child’s birthday.
When it comes to holidays, every family has their own traditions. Some divide Christmas Eve and Christmas Day or alternate year to year, while others pick the one that resonates most with their traditions.
At Transitions Legal, we advise clients to articulate their priorities and values in advance of filing for divorce, so that information can guide the details and outcomes of their split. We rely on the Our Family in Two Homes resource to guide clients in outlining what matters to them before divorcing – which can help determine parenting time, too. In the same way, we recommend that divorcing parents think long and hard about what is reasonable and realistic in the way they’ll map out their parenting time.
And, we remind them that parenting time is about the children – not about the parents — what’s best for the kids, not a competition between the parents for more time or to be the favorite.
Children – all people, really – crave routine and structure, so changing up the schedule too often can be unsettling for everyone. It’s important to mark special times in unique ways but not at the expense of your children’s comfort.
We often tell clients to let go of the way things used to be and create new rituals, practices and routines post-divorce. Doing so can help the children ease into their new normal, and also help parents be OK with a different kind of family life than they might have imagined.
Make the goal of parenting time a meaningful connection with your children – no matter what you’re doing or what day it is or how many days you have together. They’ll remember that you spent time together more than how many hours they had with you.