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. Here are the best alternatives to the every other weekend routine.
Problems with the Every Other Weekend Custody Schedule
An every other weekend schedule means that you have a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent. The child or children lives with the custodial parent and visits the non-custodial 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 non-custodial parent, who is usually the father. Even if the non-custodial 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.
Other schedules 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 in the schedule.
70/30 Custody Schedule Examples
A slightly more balanced arrangement than every other weekend 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 non-custodial 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 schedule. The child lives with the custodial parent but only spends one weekend out of three with him or her (usually the mother). The child visits the non-custodial 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 non-custodial parent 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 their non-custodial 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 non-custodial parent every other weekend. 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 Plans
To provide more balance, extra overnights with the non-custodial 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.
A. Every other weekend plus Thursday and Monday
A slight variation on Schedule C above is to make the weekend a full 3-night weekend from Friday to Monday morning. This produces a 65/35 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. The schedule is highly balanced and relies on both parents living quite close to school.
We Can Do Better Than Every Other Weekend
The schedules shown here are just a sample of the range of schedules 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 both their parents often.