Every other weekend is perhaps the most well known and common child custody schedule. But other parenting timetables can be better for children, allowing them to see both their parents often.
Among the best alternatives to this particular routine are 70/30 and 60/40 custody schedules. But the optimal schedule is always case-dependent. Every other weekend tends to be best mainly for older children whose parents live quite far apart.
Problems with the Every Other Weekend Custody Schedule
An every other weekend schedule means that you have a custodial parent and a non-custodial (or occasional) parent. A child lives with one parent and visits the other parent on alternating weekends. Usually, parenting responsibilities are more even for school holidays, which may be shared 50/50.
The biggest problem with the simple every other weekend schedule is the gap between regular visits with the secondary carer, who is usually the father. Even if that parent collects the child from school on Friday afternoon for a visit and drops them back there on Monday morning, there is a gap of more than 11 days until the next “other weekend” begins. This long absence happens even fortnight.
Routinely going for 11+ days without seeing a parent obviously harms the parent-child relationship. The parent is rarely there for unexpected life events. And they cannot effectively guide the child on a daily basis. Although digital and other forms of communication can help bridge the separation gap, the non-custodial parent is typically not present and can only have a limited influence on a child’s upbringing.
When You Can Move Away from Every Other Weekend
Given the relationship costs, really an every other weekend schedule is best only if the parents live a considerable distance from one another. Distance makes regular travel between homes impractical. In particular, getting a child to and from school each day takes too long from the distant parent’s home.
A different custody agreement should be considered if the longest travel time between a home and school is less than, say, one hour. While there are no hard and fast rules, a maximum travel time under an hour leaves scope for at least one extra overnight visit to be included on the fortnightly calendar.
70/30 Custody Schedule Examples
A slightly more balanced arrangement than every is a 70/30 child custody schedule. The 70% to 30% time split works out to a child spending 4 out of every 14 nights with the occasional parent. This is above the maximum 3 nights per fortnight under an every other weekend timetable.
A. 2 out of 3 weekends
Especially where distance is an issue, parents might consider agreeing on a two out of three weekends custody agreement. The child lives with one parent but only spends one weekend out of three with him or her (usually the mother). The child visits the other parent only on weekends but does so for two out of every three.
B. Every other weekend plus a Monday
A slight variation on the every other weekend schedule is to add a Monday visit with the secondary carer on the Monday after the weekend that they don’t have the child or children. The extra Monday visit breaks up the long block of time the child or children would otherwise not see one parent.
C. Two-night weekend plus Thursday and Monday
For younger children, another good 70/30 option is to have a 2-night visit with the occasional parent on alternating weekends. This could be Friday and Saturday together or Saturday and Sunday nights. Along with the 2-night weekend visit, you add Thursday and Monday visits to the schedule.
65/35 and 60/40 Custody Schedules
To provide more balance, extra overnights with the noncustodial parent can be added to the schedule. Five nights per fortnight corresponds with a 65/35 schedule and six nights represents a 60/40 ratio. And, of course, seven nights is 50/50. All these schedules may be considered joint physical custody, shared parenting and co-parenting, meaning you don’t have a “non-custodial” parent as such but two co-parents instead.
A. Every other weekend plus Thursday and Monday
A slight variation on Schedule C above is to make the weekend a 3-night extended weekend from Friday to Monday morning. This produces a 65/35 custody schedule: every other weekend plus Thursday and Monday,
B. Every other weekend plus Wednesday, Thursday and Monday
One of the popular 60/40 schedules consists of a 3-night weekend with the minor-care parent followed by visits on Wednesday and Thursday nights and then the following Monday. This 60/40 custody schedule is highly balanced and relies on co-parents living quite close to school.
We Can Do Better Than a Fortnightly Weekend Visit
The schedules shown here are just a sample of the range of custody arrangements that are superior to every other weekend. Each of them offers better balance and, in particular, gets the parent with the least amount of care more involved their child’s life.
Shared parenting has been demonstrated to provide many benefits for children. And family law legislation often emphasizes the importance of the primary carer fostering a meaningful relationship between their child and the other parent.
Perhaps the only significant barrier to using these alternative schedules is parents living far apart. So, the message to separated parents is to try to live reasonably close to one another. That way, your child can enjoy the advantages of seeing their co-parents often.