Creating a Plan for Shared Custody

Parent Q&A

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  • First off, thank you for the feedback you have all offered over the years. Separating from the father of my children has been difficult and a process that has taken me years! Now I am reaching out for feedback on communication. Back in January I sent him a letter via email, text and WhatsApp asking him to consider the sale of our property and splitting the equity in half. In this letter, I asked him to respond in 30 days in the manner he sought best fit. No response. Seeing that he had no intention of responding, I decided to rent a house and leave our home. We have been separated under the same home for close to 4 years and that has brought a lot of anxiety to me, and my children have witnessed my depression, so I just wanted out. I wrote him a second letter and gave it to him in the same manner as I did the first one. In this second letter I informed him that  I would be moving out, laid out a 'suggested' custody arrangement, as well as my wishes for better communication with him. I advised him that I was willing to work with him on the schedule and time he spent with the kids and invited him to communicate with me in the way he found best fit for him; writing, text, verbal. I am not shocked that he has not responded and its been over a month. 

    Currently, and for years, he has left the house at his leisure with no regard to me, the kids schedule or events. He just leaves. Last week I overheard him tell our 11 year old that he would be taking her and my son, who is 8, to LA. I texted him the following morning asking him for details about this trip and he stated "our daughter already told you the plan." First off, no she had not. And second, she is an 11 year old child and should not be serving him as a communication agent. I reminded him that she was a child and he was the adult and while I wouldn't prevent him from spending time with the kids, I did need for him to be more accessible and communicative. My son was treatment for strep throat and allergies, which he was not aware about because he was gone. I advised him on the treatment and packed him a cooler with his meds and gave him clear instructions. They left Thursday and despite my many attempts to reach out to him to ask about my kids, he didn't respond. On Sunday he calls me and asks me what the pink medicine was for. He never gave our son his antibiotics and interrupted his 10 day treatment for 3 days. I asked him to handle it by calling the advice nurse or by sending the doctor a note asking how to move forward. He never did. Also, when I spoke with my children later that they, they were both sad as his dad had blamed them both for not reminding him that my son needed his medicine. I spent 40 minutes on the phone that night making the call his dad should have made. I will be moving in 10 days, and my anxiety level is through the roof.

    I worry about his continued lack of willingness to communicate will not go away and I am upset that he wants to use the kids as middle men to communicate with me, as he already does. Have you experienced a similar scenario? Did you have to go to court? Should I send him a notarized letter with communication expectations before seeking legal help? I was hoping we didn't have to go to court to fight over custody as I am willing to work things outside of court. I communicate mainly via text with him, because he wont speak to me, and if I address him verbally, he ignores me.

    Thank you

    I went through some similar struggles with my now ex husband although we were not living together. When I went to a therapist to discuss the issue, she said "this is what courts are for." I finally decided to hire a lawyer because I was through trying to manage things on my own. It was the best decision I could have made. I hired a reasonable lawyer who was not interested in creating more drama and my ex hired a lawyer too. We came up with a parenting plan that we could both live with, divided our assets and finalized our divorce. Having a written custody agreement where things like communication, travel, medical care, etc are spelled out in advance prevents a lot of conflict. 

    Hi there,

    Went through the same thing. Communicate concisely by Email only and have it BCC’d to all of your emails. Every month put the communications in a binder in date order. Make sure you keep your medical insurance, they are in school, have issues addressed in court.

    Do not fight! Remember in California it is 50/50 period...unless there is danger. 

    Ask the judge to order all communications by email! Keep it simple. Be kind even though you dont want to! Emails work...texts do not!!!

    I understand your wish to go to avoid an adversarial divorce, but what you're dealing with is untenable for you and it's unhealthy for your kids, too. Have you considered mediation? Mediators know family law, they've *seen it all*, and they can steer tense conversations to help you work through to a concrete, practical strategy that you then record in a legally binding agreement. My ex and I used Eva Herzer, but that was over 10 years ago.

    Regardless of what agreement you eventually reach, it sounds like you're dealing with somebody who isn't on top of the kids' day-to-day care and you'll need some solutions for that. Co-parenting got a lot easier for me when my older daughter got a phone and I could communicate with her and her sister directly; it allayed my worries and made it easier to pass along reminders about things like medications, school field trips, etc. School lunches were a struggle on the days when my kids weren't with me, so I signed my kids up for hot lunch at school. Maybe he'll grow into his new role, but if he doesn't you can still help your kids. Best of luck to you.

    This is abuse, manipulation and neglect.  His communication is not likely to change and he is neglecting your children.  I would get some solid legal advice and be contacting an abuse hotline for information and advice.  There is no way to cherry coat this.  

    There is a website called “Talking Parents”.  It is often used by the courts to help parents track communication.  This way you have legal record of your communications and his lack of response.  I know some families who use it for all communications.  It does require his cooperation to set it up and use.  I doesn’t look like you can safely and effectively avoid lawyers. 

  • Custody schedule for 3 and 11 year old

    (7 replies)

    My husband and i have been married 12 years, together for 14 and after some serious issues (not substance abuse or violence) i asked him to move out and he has been staying with a friend for 3 weeks. While there is still a chance of reconciliation i am starting to realize it might not happen and trying to educate myself on how to navigate this.

    I did meet with a lawyer and have all the practical info i need but i am wondering about custody. Due to his work schedule, there is no way we can do 50/50. Best i could come up with while talking with the lawyer was 35/65 and even that will require some creativity

    My husband has always had the main job while i worked part time and did everything else. He has never done getting the morning routine or evening one alone, except when we had one child and maybe twice. He isn't a bad person he just has no concept of what it takes to parent all day. Since the separation we have kept things loose where he visits but he has made little efforts to do so more than what is convenient for him.

    I am trying to think of a schedule that would balance our children's needs for consistency and one that would also be something i can function with. The obvious is for me to have them during the week and he on week end but that seems somewhat unfair that i would deal with all the school stuff, after school activities, tutors etc..while he can pretty much do the fun stuff on week ends. On the other hand, if we do a different kind of schedule won't it be disruptive for the kids?

    So i am looking for practical feedback based on experience. i am fairly confident he won't argue with whatever i come up with as long as it's not too complicated for him (sigh)

    As a 3 custody battle veteran i have learned:
    *Weekend fun costs money.
    *Fair is a ridiculous joke concept. *Compromise will rule the day-so choose wisely & prepare to give up for a request.
    * You WILL at some point become angry or intensely disagree- plan an absolutely nonnegotiable bottom line & plan to forfeit lesser issues.
    *Attorneys cost major money-dont resort to court out of frustration (youll regret it).
    *Accept that you have unfortunately created upheaval for the kids no matter what & to now seriously participate in family counseling. Just do it.
    *You now live completely by your calendar mapping out your life for years.
    *Always wait to respond to anything until u take time to think. Call back later.
    *Irresponsible parents should not be in charge of schooling etc. Conceded weekends = good educations.
    * Lastly- never ever ever miss a prior committed appt for or regarding kids. School functions, counseling etc. Never ever!

    Good luck!

    I'm thinking it is possible he may feel it's unfair for you to be kid-free all weekend. So just be prepared for that.  

    I married a man with three kids from his former marriage. They are grown now but his schedule when we began dating was that he took them for dinner two nights a week and had them every other weekend. I don't remember what that worked out percentage-wise.  They were not the kind of kids who had a lot of extracurriculars and apparently this didn't interfere with their getting homework done. It seemed to work out OK for everyone.

    You don't say how old your kids are but one positive from this situation is that kids who have two separate household seem to take on more responsibility at an earlier age for managing their schedules.  

    Good luck! 

    As a kid, my parents lived an hour apart from each other. So we did weeks with one, weekends with another. When five days felt like too long, the weekend parent would make a special visit on Wednesdays. It helped me a lot to have the consistency, a simple schedule I could understand and count on. Best of luck to your family.

    Lots & lots of families in similar situations. Kids seem to do fine with switching back & forth (better than living with unhappy parents, or worse?). I agree that you as the "task master" while he's all-fun-all-the-time may not be the best, for anyone but him that is. Should be able to work out a 35/65 schedule that doesn't mean the weekday/weekend schedule. Your lawyer has probably seen or helped figure out such schedules, I would think. Best of luck. 

    FYI - I was surprised that my equally-uninvolved husband wanted 50-50 custody. (Because he wanted to pay less child support & he wanted to hurt me.) It really sucked.

    What we did was -- sun, mon, tues nights with mommy; weds, thurs, fri nights with daddy; Saturday nights alternating. After a few months he realized how much $ he was spending on babysitters/aftercare on his days since he worked till 6pm, plus he couldn't manage sick days etc. (I refused to pay it). So he agreed that on his days, I could take care of the kids afterschool till he got off work. That way, I saw them every weekday, which I loved ( but I had to see him almost every day too, which sucked.)

    If he doesn't care about 50-50, an option is - kids are with you Monday thru Friday, plus every other weekend. Maybe he also takes them for dinner on Wednesdays. 

    First off, I want to agree with just about everything oltreymare said.  I've been through two myself and one thing I can tell you for sure is that being the week-time parent forges a better bond with the children than being the "Mc-Parent," although it often does not seem that way at the time.  Another thing that is VERY important, especially for your younger child, is to have frequent contact with both parents.  For a three-year-old that ideally would be not more than 2-3 days between visits, however brief.

    What worked best for my kids was a schedule something like this:  During the school year, nights before each school day were with the primary custodial parent.  Nights before each weekend day for three weekends per month, including long weekend week days.  The occasional mid-week school holidays were disregarded, but weekdays that extended a school weekend were treated as weekend days.  Five weekend months gave an extra weekend to the primary parent. We also had a dinner night mid-week, often as an entire family once things settled down. 

    For the summer, the inverse of that schedule applied, but with the primary parent allowed to take two weeks for a vacation if they chose.  It sounds like that might be hard for your spouse, but if they could work it out, I highly recommend that you set that up.

    And then lastly, school breaks and holidays were alternated in even/odd years.  One family got Thanksgiving one year and Christmas the other, etc.

    Hope that helps.

    As an adult child of parents who had joint custody, your post resonated. I'm not sure what to recommend specifically regarding the arrangement/schedule other than that I hope you give the kids some say and build in some flexibility to change it over time if need be. It means a lot to a child whether his/her needs are considered regarding something as basic as a post-split schedule. Sometimes kids miss one parent or the other. Sometimes they feel protective of a parent. It may not sound like a big deal, but it can be.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Different Ages Different Situations

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No fixed schedule for co-parent in food business

May 2007

I have been separated from my husband, (soon to be ex-husband), for over a year. We have 2 young children (3 yrs old and 2yrs old) and have been unsuccessful at working out a ''set'' visitation schedule. We are not good at communicating and there is still conflict, so working out visitation EVERY WEEK takes a lot of energy and is very frustrating.

He works in a kitchen and every week claims to ''hopefully'' be on a set schedule ''soon''. Weeks have gone by and I'm at my wits end. He claims that he will lose his job or not be promoted if he has to work on a set this true? Do managers/chefs look down on people with kids? Is anyone out there a manager at a restaurant and can explain why someone with kids/visitation cannot have a set work schedule? A

As someone who has struggled to get an ex to make a workable co- parenting schedule, I feel your pain. One of the things that liberated me was to say, OK, here's the schedule. Whether you're working or not (or playing tennis or going to a lecture or whatever) during ''your'' days, you are responsible to get a sitter. My own experience was that I was so used to taking care of both my ex and my child that when my ex said ''Oh, I can't do it that night,'' I thought I had to jump in. But then a light bulb went on. YOUR EX has to be responsible. I recognize that with food service work, he may have to work late, and he might want to only have the kids if he can be with them during the evening. But there are some realities here, such as the fact that working parents can't always be with their kids when they would like to and sometimes have to hire someone to watch them. You may also prefer to watch them rather than have him hire a sitter -- in which case perhaps you should discuss altering the visitation schedule so that he has less care of the kids until he gets a more stable work schedule, and pays you more child support. In either case, he needs to commit to a regular schedule that both you and the kids can depend on, whether it means reducing his time with the kids for the time being or hiring a sitter. I don't know enough about your situation to judge, but it may be that he's just not taking proper responsibility for childcare, being used to have someone else do it. been there

Yes, the schedules are brutal. My husband is a manager which means he opens and closes and sleeps in between shifts. This seems like an illegal practice, but I am sure if he files a grievance he will be replaced. So far, he has worked for three years with an erratic schedule. He gets called in when it is swamped or he sends staff home if it is slow. He does see the kids a few hours afterschool. This is hardly quality time since he is tired and cranky. The job is not really worth the money and I wish for a ''normal'' life. The business closes past midnight so I hardly see him at night. Then it opens again at 8AM so he I see him for 15 minutes in the mornings including weekend which are the busiest times. The owner is from a country where they used to work very long hours so he dares not complain to them about the family issue. Let your spouse know how much you appreciate their hard work and try to be supportive. They will find their way to a better position if that is what they want. The job situation may be out of your control for now. Married to the Manager

I have a friend who went to culinary school and then moved into the food business, and the stories she told me about how she and the other workers were treated were appalling. Based on her experience it seems like there is a subculture of that encourages demanding schedules, and inflexible, uncaring management so I can imagine it would be hard to have a set weekly schedule. I imagine it would make coparenting logistics very tricky. Good luck working through things! jb

As someone who has worked in the food business for a long time I have to say that he is right. I am sure people will tell you he should talk to his both or that it's illegal to treat employees that way but the bottom line is that in the food business you are very replacable and that if you make ongoing schedule requests you will be considered a whiner and let go. I would say a majority of restaurant workers are not ''career'' restaurant employees and therefore not as reliable (if something better comes up they leave) and therefore things are often different from one week to the next. Yes there are exceptions but they are just that...exceptions.After many years of exeprience it can change. Employees usually have to work week ends but they usually get some week days off which could be usueful with kids. good luck

I was a cook when I was in college, and unfortunately, being kitchen staff is just like that. If your ex-husband is a manager of some sort then he's got to cover anybody who flakes out and doesn't show up. He's ultimately responsible for the kitchen and if it goes downhill its his fault. Even if he's not a manager, he's schedule would be dictated by the whims of the customers (whether its busy or not). Being a cook was the most stressful job I've ever had in my life and I'm so glad I'm doing something else now.

I've known a lot of divorced cooks because the hours are SO demanding, especially for somebody in management or trying to get into management. Because it's really just a restaurant the demands are something that don't really get a lot of respect. I mean, doctors can usually be forgiven for a non-set schedule...but is anybody's life going to be in danger if they can't get their creme brulee in time to make it to the opera? no.

I don't think your husband is using work as an excuse to get out of parenting responsibilities. He's trying to make sure he can keep his job.

The problem is him, not food service. I have been divorced for three years and my ex has never been able to manage a set schedule for anything, even before the divorce. I gave up on trying to set up a visitation schedule a long time ago. It is less painful for all to just go about your own life on your own schedule. He'll fit himself in or he won't. His loss, and your kids will be happier with your stability. -- a mom

I posed your question to a friend of mine who is an executive chef at a high end restaurant. He says that schedules do change and like in any profession, flexibility and hard work helps advance a career. He also said that your 'ex' should, however, have a good rough estimate of blocks of time that he will have off each day. Perhaps instead of looking for specific days that he has off, you should look for specific time periods that he has off. -anon

Who cares if it's true? Eff him if he doesn't want to make the kids a priority. Set YOUR schedule and stick to it. If you have a lawyer, draft the policy and mention in it how difficult it is to get him to commit to the time he sees his own children. Keep a paper trail. I'll bet after a few weeks of missing his kids, he'll suddenly find the sack to ask for a set schedule. What a jerk. You don't have to parent him in addition to your kids. Take care of YOU and let him come along if he wants to be a man and a father.

p.s. I totally don't mean this to be dismissive of dads in general. I know how hard it can be to find time when you're working extra hours to pay child support. But to refuse to commit to a schedule is just flaky and passive-aggressive.

Excuse my emotional response! So, having the responsibility of the kids on a set schedule would cramp his style? What about you? How many mothers, single or married, have had to deal with kid/work conflicts. I say his ''inability'' to work something out is not your problem. Isn't that the point of divorce? He has you on a string continually communicating. You could claim the same kind of hardship he's claiming - raising kids takes time and the rest of your life is scheduled around that. I would find a mediator through the courts to have a schedule set! Anon

The restaurant business is not a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday affair like most of us are used to. It's nights, weekends, and holidays, and the schedules change all the time depending on customer flow. So while your ex may have one schedule one week, it may change the next. Do restaurants look down on employees with kids? I'm sure some of them do. I'm also sure some of them don't. Keep in mind restaurants are notorious for not giving their employees benefits. Your ex may be hard pressed to ask for a consistent schedule. However, he may need to make a more concerted effort to get slightly more consistent time off i.e. a certain day every two weeks, etc. Anon

Custody - Kids stay in family house, folks move?

Jan 2006

My partner and I are in the early stages of a divorce and are discussing the possibility of leaving the kids in our current home full time, and having one of us be the ones to move in and out per a certain schedule. We could take an apartment that we would share on the side, or each get our own places for the time we are not the ''live-in'' parent. I know of one person who does this and seems to be happy with it, but a few other people I questioned have said that it seems very difficult on the parents, and unsustainable for the long term.

Has anyone tried this arrangement that could share some thoughts on it? Or is there anyone who can tell me whether or not they think that the added stability it might provide to the kids would significantly outweigh the instability it might cause the parents? I really want to do what will cause our kids the least amount of stress, but I have to admit that the possibility of my not feeling totally grounded has me concerned that I will not be able to be the best parent. Our kids will be 5 and 6 at the time this change would take place, if that helps to put the question of what's best for the kids into perspective. TA

I haven't done this or anything like this (not divorced), but I think it is an excellent idea, speaking as a child of divorce. It's so hard on kids to have to move from house to house, especially one they may think is weird, scary, or too small/big. Also, which parent gets the ''real'' house can cause favoritism, or judgement, etc. It might be a bit difficult on you and your ex-partner, but not much more difficult than it would be for your children. It seems to me that often that though they are not the ''cause'' of divorce, children suffer terribly from the things that come of it (besides simply Mommy and Daddy not being together anymore). However, to do this, you would probably have to be on mild to very good terms with your ex-partner, because sometimes in divorce the two people simply can't bear that much reminder of the other. Anon

I have not done this myself but had friends that did and it worked beautifully for them. Mom rented her own studio apartment and Dad got a room in a group house. The kids stayed in the family home and Mom and Dad split the week living there.

This may not work forever, but might add some needed stability during this transition. Just because you do this for a year - or even 5 years - doesn't mean you're wedded to the arrangement until the kids leave home.

I admire you for considering this option and wish you good luck. Anon

My ex and I split 7 years ago when our kids were 3 and 7. We kept the kids in the house and for the 1st year; he and I went back and forth between an apartment we shared. We did it in part to save some $, but largely to spare the kids. For us, and the few others I've heard of who have done this, it is a great thing for the kids--short or long term. For us, it gave the kids a chance to get used to being with just one of us at a time still in the comfort of the only home they'd ever known. (They also got a real kick out of visiting the apt occasionally--go figure.)

In terms of it being a pain for the adults, well, yes, it might be, but the kids didn't ask for this, the adults did and so why make it any harder on the kids than it has to be, right? As a freelancer, I had two offices (1 in the apt and 1 at home) and was constantly shleping stuff back and forth, but really, it was a small price to pay for my kids' added comfort and stability.

Look, no kid ever wants their parents to be divorced, but it happens, and hopefully everyone learns valuable lessons from it. The best thing (as you probably already know since you're thinking this way)--regardless of the housing situation--is that the parents get along and co-parent as well as they can.

Transitions for kids are tough, and even if you only did this ''birdnesting'' thing (my lawyer said that's the term for it) for 6 months, it might give the kids the time they need to get used to the idea of their parents being apart. And what's the worst that can happen? If you try it and it fails miserably, then go the conventional route. I see no down side to it, really. If you are worried about your stess level and how that'll affect the kids, remember that there will be other things that will cause you stress as well and the key is for you to find some way to relieve that stress--regardless of the cause.

You're doing a tough and courageous thing (the divorce) and I applaud you and your partner for even being able to consider this route (the birdnesting thing). It speaks volumes for your concern for your kids. With parents like this, I'm sure your kids will be fine in the end. If you have any more questions, just email me. Best of luck to you. na

We tried this several years ago. I think we wanted stability for our kids as you do and also couldn't bear to part with our nice house or decide who would get it. My husband rented 1/2 of a house from a co worker. I rented a room with a shared bath in another woman's house. After about 4-5 months we decided it was just too expensive to be paying for three sets of accomodations. We quickly had thrown out the idea of ''sharing'' an apartment when we were out of the house. We each needed our private space. Finally, I moved back into the house but couldn't afford to keep it with my minimal salary. I kept renting more and more out until I was living in the in-law unit with no kitchen. Eventually I had to sell it and my ex stayed with his arrangement of 1/2 a house rental until he remarried.

Our two children were roughly the same age as yours. You will need to evaluate your finances carefully and do what is best for all of you. Best of luck at finding a solution that is healthy and happy for all. anon in N. Berkeley

Shared custody of 3-y-o in two different states

May 2006

As part of our marriage settlement agreement my soon to be ex-wife and I will share custody of our nearly 3 year old daughter. I am moving to the DC area soon and she is remaining in the Bay Area. Our daughter will spend 9 weeks with each of us. This is an experiment to see if it works in a healthy way. If not, it's back to mediation. Has anyone has any experience with such an unusual shared custody? If so, what advice can you give. Thanks, Robert

My father moved to California after my parents got divorced (I was 13 - my brother was 11) and we lived in Michigan. We would fly out to see him but since his folks lived in Michigan sometimes he would fly home. This went on through our adult years - I would live out there for summers, etc. My brother ended up moving in with him when he was 13 and I stayed with my mom but we still flew back and forth over summers and holidays and it worked out just fine. Ironically, I moved to California myself as an adult and my brother moved his family to Michigan. If you want to email me with specific questions, I'll be happy to share my experience with you

I actually WAS the child in a shared custody arrangement in two states. I lived a year with my dad, then a year with my mom. I want to assure you that I am very happy my parents decided to do it this way because it is the only way I would have been this close to them both. This is much more important to me than the friends I might have grown up with. That said, there are a few things you should plan on doing to make it easier for your daughter.

First: ship her back to see the other parent for christmas and let her call them whenever she wants.

Second: she should spend summer vacations with the parent she lived with during the previous school year so she has friends.

Third: Expect that at some point she will get sick of it and ask to live with just one parent so she doesn't lose all of her friends again. When this happens don't take it personally, it is a social life decision not a matter of choosing parents. I did this in the 10th grade.

Fourth: Try to maintain some continuity in activities. If she's on a swim team in one state, try to find one in the other state so she doesn't have to start a new activity every year.

Fifth: If one state has middle school 6-8th grade and the other state has middle school 7-9th grade, try to fix it so your kid isn't stuck with 4 years of middle school. At 35 I'm still a bit irritated my folks didn't plan that one better.

Sixth: this probably goes for all divorced parents, if you are having financial disagreements (i.e. who has to pay for the braces) DON'T involve your kid (''why don't you call your dad and tell him he needs to pay the orthodontist?'' is really uncool).

Though I admit it would have been easier on me if my parents had lived in the same state, heck, it would have been easier on me if they had stayed married and really loved each other, but that just wasn't the reality. A kid needs two happy parents more than anything, and I'm glad that I got to be close to both of mine. been that kid

Dear Robert, I respect you asking this question and seeking advice! As a psychologist and an expert custody issues I think you should consider one thing in your evaluation of how well your daughter will do in this type of situation. What has her experience been so far and how much of a drastic change this move will be for a young child? One of the primary developmental tasks of a three year olds is to gradually increase interests in peers, school and other social environments. This task may be made more difficult with this custody arrangement because of the periodic changes in her social environments. She may experience the constant changes as constantly ''starting over'' and may experience pain from being away from either of you for such a long periods of time. Three year olds have the ability to hold the other parent in their mind which is good because they will be able to comfort themselves in extended absences from one parent but painful because they really are aware of the feelings of abandonment! These experiences could make her more susceptible for depression or other behavior issues depending on her temperament. It will also be difficult to keep up this type of schedule in a few years when starting school. Most experts would recommend no more than three to four days away from either parent. I do applaud the spirit of the agreement to ''share'' your daughter, but I think this experiment is risky and could cause more problems down the line. If you were staying in the area I would invite to to attend a Divorced Dads group that I lead or would offer to help your family find the best ways to achieve consistency and stability for your daughter life while maintaining a real presence from a long distance. Good luck!

50/50 split for 1-y-o and 2-y-o?

Jan 2007

My friend's children are 1 and 2 1/2 years old and is just filing for divorce. Her husband and she share custody of the children and they are trying to determine the appropriate time for each of them to have the children. the husband wants to keep the children 50% of the time but there is concern what this split time may have on children that young. The older one has already shown signs of regression when she returns home to the mother after 2-3 nights away with the father. does anyone know the expert advice on this? thank you very much

This is an unfortunate though common scenario where a parent may be putting his needs before those of the children.

Developmentally, it it very difficult on young children to be apart from their primary caregiver (in this case, it sounds like it's the Mom but it would be the same if Dad were primary care giver) even on overnights in some cases.

A good book on this topic is ''Good Parenting Through Your Divorce'' By Mary Ellen Hannibal and put out by Kids Turn ( It goes over all the needs of children at each developmental stage.

A good pyschologist in the East Bay is Chandler Hoffman 510-847- 7919. Good Luck, Susan

Hi, I took a really great workshop for divorced parents called Kids' Turn and I highly recommend it to all divorced parents, even if things are going pretty well already. I learned so much from the workshop, and the handbook I got in the workshop has become one of my most frequently consulted parenting resources. You can look Kids' Turn up online. They do workshops all over the Bay Area and have set an example for similar workshops in other parts of the country. They have a sliding-fee scale, which encourages parents to be part of this regardless of their financial situation. I encourage you to look them up online.

Also, Philip Stahl's book, Parenting After Divorce, is full of really great advice on how parents can do their best to put their children's needs first. Best of luck, Sara

While older (pre-1990) scholarship suggested otherwise, contemporary work (1990 to the present) shows that substantially equal custody works best at all ages. The ''regression'' seen in the 2 1/2 year old in the presented case could be simply due to the divorce rather than to something connected with the father's timeshare. The work of Joan Kelly, Ph. D., is the most scholarly on this issue, and a search of this work will be useful in learning more about this situation.

Our Group, California Parents United, has data which is electronically available by contacting me at the e-mail address below. Robert

This is a sensitive issue, so happy the involved parties are thinking about this.

It's important to remember that this is a transition, so there likely will be bumps along the way. My ex and I separated when my son was 9 months old. For the first few months, his visitation was done at our house (mostly while I was out, but we really tried to stay amicable).

At 15 months I was ready (and my ex was ready) to let my son spend the night at his house. We did not get to a 50-50 split until my son was almost four. We took our cues from our son as best we could.

We actually hired a co-parenting counselor (an advocate for our son) to help us with these types of decisions. We were determined to keep any negative feelings that we had about one another out of our parenting. We're not super-human but we did pretty well. (We have a very well adjusted 12 year old now)

But really, the important thing is that everyone have as a priority what is best for the child. If that's the case, it will be evident to the child and will go a long way to smoothing the rough road that is divorce. Also, I firmly believe in seeking professional help in understanding your child's behavior (and your own feelings) if you think it will help at all.

One more observation, transitions between households can be hard. It is best wherever possible to schedule them across another activity. For instance, dad drops off at pre-school and mom picks up. We found direct transitions from one house to another to be challenging right up to the age of 12. Anon

My aunt did a 50-50 split when her kids were 5 and 3. They are now in college and she feels strongly that it was a very bad arrangement for the kids. They literally were changing houses every 7 days, living out of a suitcase. This was so hard on them. Each week they would have to readjust to the new house, with new rules and just as they settled in towards the end of the week, they were off again. It has been shown that what kids need most, especially when they are very young like your friends are, is routine and consistency. They gain inner strength from that. Splitting time between parents may be nice for each parent, but it is severly damaging for the kids. My aunts older daughter now suffers from bipolar disorder and she can't help but wonder if the arrangement had an impact on her. I would have your friend read studies on this issue and fight to have them full time at one home, for the kids sake. anon

This is a difficult issue for professionals who are advising or evaluating families regarding child custody arrangements. The professional literature is somewhat split on custody arrangements for young children -- with some professinals emphasizing the need for regular contact (even overnights) with both parents and others emphasizing the need for continuity of care with a primary parent. It is important to remember that no one schedule will work for everyone. The schedule must be tailored to the unique needs of the children and family.

Regressive behavior in young children following separation from one parent is quite common in the post-divorce period. The question of importance is the extent of the regression and the recoverability of the child. Children who cry, have eating or sleeping problems, or show other regressive signs after separating from one parent, but who manifest the ability to recover within a relatively short time probably will be able to adjust to a 50-50 custody split (assuming reasonably competent parenting by each parent, and a reasonable degree of cooperation between them). However, when children continue to show significant regression, even after a reasonable adjustment period, then the family may have to consider another custody arrangement -- at least for the time being. Remember, it is unrealistic to assume that a living arrangement established when children are young will necessarily continue to serve their needs (or the needs of parents) throughout the growing up years. Furthermore, another guiding principle is to try to minimize the number of transitions between households so that the children aren't always changing residences and have the opportunity to settle in with both their mother and father.

Probably the key factor influencing children's adjustment post- divorce though (other than warm and loving parenting by both parents), is the degree of cooperation the parents can achieve regarding child care issues. Ongoing parental conflict, with each attempting to get the children to side with them, is devastating for children of divorce. Two excellent parenting guides for couples who are divorcing are: Parenting after divorce by Phil Stahl, Ph.D Growing up with divorce by Neil Kalter, Ph.D.

My parents shared 50/50 custody of me from age 2 to 16. I have no memory of my custody arrangements prior to school age but remember feeling deeply loved by two people you were committed to me in a way that they had not committed to another and felt equally loved by both parents - no one could give me up more then they had to. By school age I did first a 2-2-5-5 rotation (two days at each then five at each) then 3-3-4-4 just changing which school bus I took to get to either home. By high school I changed to a rotating every week (my step-father wanted to build our relationship and thought a longer stay would help - it didn't but later it all worked out). Any combination worked fine for me. By high school I wanted all my shoes with me so wednesday i hauled a bag back and forth - we had lockers then - not sure what kids do now. My mom remained my best friend but my dad was were I learned about unconditional love. I once worked out a schedule for my half-brothers to get to stay together some days and each have time alone with each parent other days (they were older and it was not implmented). The message I got about my importance to both parents was the greatest gift of my childhood. Oh, the rule that whoever moved lost me and then no one moving helped too. 50/50 was great in any combination

Joint custody of two young children

June 2002

If anyone has experience with joint custody arrangements, I would appreciate hearing how others have managed to make this work with an amicable divorce. I need to also hear how people have arranged the joint custody of 2 young kids. thanks. Soon to be Single

Please, please read ''The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce'' by Judith Wallerstein. There is a chapter in it about shared custody. As a former child of divorce and a joint custody arrangement I highly recommend it. In brief, the vast majority of parents and courts structure a child's visitation schedules around the parents' lives, needs and convenience, often at the expense of the child's right to enjoy their own neighborhood, extracurricular activities, and friendships. Of course, each parent's desire to maintain a close connection with their child is huge, but it is not everything that the child needs at this critical time. To the extent you can consider your child's own preferences, please do so, keeping in mind that these preferences may well change as your child grows older and her/his interests and social needs change. Try to preserve their ability to accept impromptu sleepover invitations and playdates, and practice schedules, and club meetings. Try to avoid having to put your kid on a long bus or plane ride alone. Whichever parent is at the ''new'' place should solicit a great deal of input from the child about how they would like their space at the other home to be. Just a few thoughts. Good luck to you. Karen

Custody/visitation for child under 1

Nov 2002

Does anyone have advice about visitation/sleepovers, for a child under 1 yrs. old, during a separation or divorce.Our daughter has spent a lot of time with both parents and is still breast feeding. I am very concerned with how our child will be effected by the separation. I hate the thought of being apart from her overnight but want to do what is best for her. Her father wants me to wean her so that she can be away overnight. Also, I would be interested in a recommendation for a child psychologist if anyone has had a good experience with a similar situtation. anonymous

Check out the California Divorce Handbook at A few months ago I was also considering divorce and had a small baby, so I did a web search and came across that page. I felt the parameters they were giving were useful, but I never actually contacted those attorneys (nor did I feel a need to do so). anonymous

Kids' Turn ( offers a program specifically for parents of children aged 0-3 who are going through divorce/separation, helping them to figure out what's best for their young one. also, Patricia Van Horn, Ph.D., at the Child Trauma Research Project at SFGH is a psychologist with expertise in this area. Susanna

This question arises in my law practice fairly frequently as I am an attorney who represents both parents and sometimes the children in often difficult custody/visitation cases.

The old school of thought and writings by experts regarding infants and toddlers under age three favored a home base with the mother and frequent but short visits with dad, no overnights. Some psychologists still recommend this sort of arrangement. However, more recent studies place great emphasis on the importance of dad's involvement with infants and toddlers and accesses dad's important role in development as equal though different than mom's. Dad's involvement effects positive motor skill, language and independence development. I have researched this myself and feel that dad's importance was and sometimes is today undervalued by the courts.

The fact that you're nursing should not stand in the way of time and overnights with dad. Overnights with dad should be fine even though your baby is nursing if you get the baby used to using a bottle as well as breast. Just pump your breast milk and give dad a large supply. The overnights should probably be limited to one night until you completely wean the baby which is certainly reasonable to do by the time your child reaches one year. At one year or so, you can switch to whole cow 's milk. In the meantime, have her spend 3 days/overnights per week with dad each separated by 2 days/nights with mom until the baby is completely weaned. That way she has a home base but is very involved with her father as well. And remember to give him the supply of breast milk. If dad could visit once for a few hours during his 2 off days that would be even better for the baby, too. As the baby gets to be over a year and is weaned, then increase the number of consecutive overnights to 2 and work out some sort of schedule where the child gets to see you both frequently but doesn't have to constantly shift homes. Also, send the baby's favorite sleepy toys with her back and forth.

By the time the child is three years old, a true fifty/fifty custody share is feasible and healthy for your child. Good luck. Frances

17-mo-old switching from mom's to dad's house every day

June 2007

Hello, My daughter is 17 month old and her daddy and I are separating. Right now he is taking her every night after work to his place and brings her b ack to my house. Weekend we alternate. I am not so confortable about her schedule. However, he claims that he has as much rights to take her as I do. So I feel like I need to let him take her. I know he is a great daddy so I am not so worried about how he is taking care of her, but I am not sure if it is the best schedule. I am working every other weekend only right now so I get to keep her during the day time. But I will be going back to work full time, and I work from 3-11:30pm. Any advise? Thank you anon

Well, you both have equal rights if that is what you agree to. However, under CA law and good family practice the person with the most ''rights'' is your infant. The law in CA is very clear that the arrangements a court would seek (and I am NOT advocating going to court- far from it!!!) is one that will be of most benefit to the child. Is it the most benefit to your infant to be going back and forth nightly from house to house? Is that too much change for a 17 mo. old? Is it a good idea? What would be best for your child? That's the question that optimally the two parents are best working together on. Perhaps a family therapist or mediator specializing in these issues could help. Good luck!

It sounds to me as if you could really use a mediator to help you understand how to work out a good schedule. It is true that your daughter should have time with her Daddy as well as with you, but you should get an arrangement that feels fair to both of you, and your message sounds as if you are hesitant to speak up, in which case a mediator would be very helpful. I can recommend either Judith Joshel or Eva Herzer. 50% custodial parent

I'm sorry for this very difficult time. WOrking out a custody arrangement can be challenging and difficult, and you will want to get help on this. Custody arrangements should be set in writing and approved by the court and they will likely need to change as children get older and as your situation changes etc.

You and your husband will need to find a way to make these decisions, as this is only the first of many, many decisions you will still have to make together.

Consult with a *good* divorce attorney, and speak about your concerns about this arrangement. Appreciate that your ex wants to continue to have regular contact with his daughter, and also know that what *might* be appropriate now (these nightly visits) likely won't later on. anon

Shared custody of 21-month-old

April 2002

I am writing seeking advise for the best way to share custody (50/50) of our 21-month old daughter. We have recently split up, and we both want to spend equal time with her, but so far our arrangement seems unfairly hard on her. I have moved out and she is spending Sunday-Wednesday with her father, then Wednesday- Saturday with me. I have heard that switching the children off each day is the worst, but after spending 3-4 days with her, it feels unhealthy to me to just let her go for the same length of time. She clearly feels more comfortable with her father & at her original home, and so in our time spent together she is very easily upset, often seems anxious, and does at times try to hit me thinking it is funny. None of these things seems to be a problem when she is with her father, which shows me that she is under too much stress for such a young girl, & which is also very frustrating when I go to drop her off and see that she is so much happier & easier there. I suppose my advise wanted is two-fold, both for professional advise (although we are on a tight budget) or any books that one could recommend that could help us to make this transition easier, & I would also love to meet other people who have been through similar situations and to hear what their experiences were. As we were never married, we have not gone through the court system for any of this & I am also curious if they could be of help? Thanks in advance, J.

Dear Johnna, My instinct on reading your request for advice is: BEWARE!!!!!! I have been in a similar situation when I was studying at Cambridge University in England with two small children. I tried to set up an amicable arrangement with my children's father (we were unmarried). Yet when I started another relationship, he went crazy, and took out a custody case against me when the children were staying with him for one of their three-day periods. Although there was no good basis for it, I lost custody. I was studying at King's College, Cambridge and had an excellent day-care/kindergarten set up for the children, but the judge (elderly English 'gentleman') said 'these children need a parent, not a kindergarten'. It took me two years to regain custody, by which time my children were seriously traumatised (their father had a drink problem).

Please be careful; it is great that you are trying to make this arrangement work, but you may be in a weak position as regards child custody because you have moved out of the home. It strikes me also that your daughter is showing you how she feels; it sounds as if she trusts you enough to show you her unhappiness and confusion with the arrangement.

I do not know what is right in such a situation; it is great if a child can have a relationship with both parents. But I would hate to see what happened to my children and me happen to anyone else. Believe in yourself and your relationship with your daughter. One thing I learnt from all this is that love conquers all - and that love is the most important thing... With best wishes, Anonymous

I was divorced when my children were 6 months old and 2 years old. If I knew then what I know now, I would have never agreed to the split time. We initially split the week up like you're doing but noticed that the children had no consistency whatsoever and realized that we were doing that for ourselves, not considering what was best for the children. So from experience, I would look at where the child is most comfortable and what parent is most available to spend daily time with the child and make that home the primary home. I would also encourage you to go to court and get it legal. Just because you weren't married doesn't mean you shouldn't go to court if there's a child involved. But mainly the courts help you in coming to an agreement if you can't do that on your own. I would just encourage you to put the child's needs in front of each of your own (missing her, feeling guilty, etc.). anonymous

Hi, first, just want to offer support during what sounds like a very difficult transition for everyone. I've been divorced for 3 years, with 2 kids who are now 9 and 12, and it has become easier over time for everyone. My kids are with each of us half time, and we have our own schedule which it took some time to get to, through a slow process of experimenting, but it seems to work well for all involved. We did first what worked for the adults, in terms of what our work allowed, but kept the kids responses and desires right up there too. They are with me every afternoon after school, every Mon and Tues eve, and every other Fri eve til Sun morning. The rest of the time with their dad. A major help is their dad's and my flexibility, and commitment to keep the kids' needs as the priority (as much as possible - we have needs too!).

It sounds like a lot of your daughter's behavior is normal for an almost-2 year old, especially going through a big transition. It seems to me she probably is testing the limits to see what she can do with you/at your house, vs her dad's. That's part of her job - pushing limits and finding where the boundaries are. Also, a lot of kids feel more secure emotionally with one parent, and tend to do more of their emotional work with that parent, where they feel really safe and can release. A resource I (and my kids) found useful was Kids' Turn. They offer classes for kids and parents going through divorce/splitting up, and did a good job of teaching communication skills for the parents as well as the kids. It was nice to hear others' stories also. Feel free to email if you want to talk. best wishes, Lucia

Visitation schedule for 2 year old

Nov 2005

Hi all. My husband and I have a 2 year old daughter and have been separated for a year. I had previously read (on BPN) that it is better for young children to have a primary home to give them a sense of security. To that end, my daughter's father comes to the house every day to either get her ready in the morning and drop her at daycare or pick her up in the evening, feed her dinner and put her to bed. This has been working well for us for the last year (as we are for the most part on friendly terms), but now as we begin to move forward with getting divorced, I was curious how other families have dealt with visitation for young children. If you followed something similar to what I described above, at what age did you begin doing a more traditional (50% time with dad's; 50% time with mom)visitation schedule? Did you find any books particularly insightful for this issue? Thanks! anon

My ex and I have had a visitation situation similar to yours for the past three years. I requested and received 100 percent physical and legal custody, as long as I assured the judge my ex and I could agree to ''fair'' visitation and my ex did not object to this arrangement (he did not). It seems to be working out well and we do not plan adjust the arrangement, especially that our daughter is now in kindergarten and changing homes and having more than one parental point of contact would be confusing to all involved. --anon

Shared Custody of two-year-old

June 1998

I am seeking advice on how to schedule time-sharing arrangements with our two year old daughter following our physical separation prior to divorce. Both my husband and I work, he in SF, me in Berkeley. I will continue to live in Berkeley and my husband insists on equal time even though I have been the primary care-giver since she was born. I am aware of the standard 15 day cycle where each parents gets one weekend and an equal amount of time during the week. But this means that there is a three day separation for each parent every cycle, which seems a lot for such a small child. On the other hand switching more often -- say almost every other day -- could be damaging and disorienting. I would be most grateful if other parents who have gone through this with children of similar age could share their experiences. We are willing to experiment but the more information the better. Also, if there are books that have been particularly useful in thinking about issues of parenting under these circumstances I would be grateful for references. Many thanks.

My ex-wife & I split up over five years ago and our kids are now 14, 12, & 9 (9-1/2, 6-3/4, & 3-3/4 at the time we separated). When we first split up we tried a lot of variations, but after about a year we settled on the scheme where we each have them for two consecutive weeknights and then we alternate 3-night weekends. This results in: 2 days with her, 2 days with me, 5 days with her, 5 days with me.

Those 5-day stretches can be both good & bad for everyone, but in the end the transitions between the houses & styles of living have proven to be as hard on the kids as the separations. We've both managed to stay pretty loose about kids going between the houses off-schedule, and we tend to end up talking on the phone with the kids once or twice during the 5-day stretches away--plus we almost always end up seeing them at some point because something needs to be retrieved from the other house. Our flexibility was of course particularly important when the younger ones were smaller, and of course is only feasible if you continue to live relatively close to one another--we're about a mile apart, a distance all but the youngest now can do on their own. When I first moved out I also moved only a few doors away, which definitely helped a lot because the kids could go back & forth at will (although for the two of us that continued proximity was at times very hard & could result in necessary fights).

For a young child the 5-day stretch is probably too long, but as she gets older I'd suggest you might want to keep this approach in mind because it minimizes transitions and gives the sort of long stretches that allow the kids to settle in at each house. The woman I'm now involved with has had the same schedule for her just-6 daughter for over two years now & it also works very well for them. Again, her ex lives about a mile from her & I think that more than the particulars of the schedule is critical...the paradox of being divorced with kids is that at least in terms of where you live, you feel more tied to the ex than ever...

I am a single mother of two children, 5, and 6 1/2. I was divorced when my son was I year and my dauughter 2 1/2. My ex and I decided to have joint custody, with each of us havng the children every other week full time. I feel this has been the best way to deal with such a situation. My children are very happy, excel at school, and know they are loved. Of course, my ex and I agreed to live within a certain radius of the school district we choose for the children so they have that stability. Not everyone remains on friendly terms with their previous spouse, like we have been able to do. The most important thing to remember is what is in the best interest of the child, and although it is very hard not to see my children everyday, I realize it is best for them to have their dad involved like he is in their lives.

As a mother of a 2 1/2 year old and as a professional social worker who works a great deal with divorcing/separating families, I urge you to consult with professionals who could discuss the developmental issues facing your child and the additional challenges/burdens that will be placed on your young one's shoulders with each schedule choice. Their are education and developmental experts in Psychology on campus whom may be willing to talk with you. If you and your husband have some resources there are excellent professionals who help parents evaluate and make decision that best fit the needs of the child. Privately I would recommend Jackie Karkasis and Sharon Lazaneo who have offices in Oakland. THeir number is 452-2034. Also Family COurt Services of Alameda County is a resource if you will be filing in Alameda (every county has one) If done thoughtfully and flexibily you can protect your child from the more damaging aspects of divorce. I often work with families after difficulties arise and know how destructive it can be for the child. I hope you and your husband can take the time to carefully educate yourselves and get an outside neutral point of view to help inform your decisions.

I was in your situation and worked out something we have been using for the past three years for our now 8 and 11 year old. We each take two of the four week days and alternate weekends. For example, I have them Monday and Tuesday, he has them Wednesday and Thursday, and I have them for the weekend. Then it reverses. My main concern was not to be apart from them for too long. This arrangement has worked out nicely and has not been damaging or disorienting. You provide the routine and stability and they have two loving homes.

I can't say enough for the importance of two things in your situation. One, time with both parents is essential and it is rare to have any significant problems associated with the back and forth routine when compared to the love shared with the child by both parents. In the end, the child is more stable having shared life with both parents as equally as possible. I'm not sure what primary caretaker means in your situation, and, I don't know how old your child is (just 2 or almost 3), but I would be more than happy to talk to you regarding my experiences with this type of situation.

TWO, never ever, under any circumstances, battle with your ex in front of your child. If you have in the past (most do in divorce settings), now is the time to stop. I have never belittled my ex or commented negatively about her around (on the phone or in person) my daughter. And, I have also never said anything negative about my ex to my daughter. If you want to screw her up quickly, this type of behavior puts the child in the worst place - having to take sides against one parent or the other. Avoid this like the plague. It is grounds for the worst to come out of the divorce. When you get that nasty letter or phone call, bite your tongue until it bleeds before lashing out in front of your child on the evils of your ex. Remember, we think are parents are 100% truth - the law, the love and the God in our life at ages 1-5/6. So, how can a divorce between 100% correct parents make sense to a 2 year old? Well, sometimes two perfectly wonderful people just are not meant to be together. It happens. Our child is very lucky - and I tell her that too. She has two parents who love her dearly, spend time with her regularly (and I mean one on one personal time) and that is more than many married families take time to provide. It is clear my ex and I both love our daughter dearly and that is what is most important.

We split when our daughter was 3, she is now 10 and is happy and healthy. Divorces happen, they are tragic and expensive and hurtful and cut you all over, but you want to say when your child is 10 - I'm glad I was married long enough to have our child. For that love is more important in my life than the pain of divorcing out of the wrong marriage.

My heart goes out to you in your situation. It is a very hard time indeed. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And it is joyful and you can return to a happy and loving life. Pray hard and do the right thing for your daughter.

Shared custody arrangements are, in my opinion, VERY family- and kid-specific, and their appropriateness very difficult to decide, except upon the subjective circumstances of each family. Some families can figure out how to make shared custody work and some kids can cope with a 50-50 schedule.

However, if the decision is put to the local family law courts, they do not as a general rule, order 50-50 time splits for young children.(Even where both parents are determined by the court to be good parents). There was a judge in Oakland, now retired, who resisted approving 50-50 custody for young children, even when both parents agreed to that kind of schedule! The older the child becomes, the more likely the court is to order/approve a 50-50 arrangement. (Child custody/visitation is modifiable throughout the child's minority).

I believe that there has been only a modest amount of research done in this area. As far as I am aware, the research that does exist shows that GENERALLY speaking, nearly all kids suffer some degree of detriment when their parents divorce; that younger kids of divorced parents suffer less detriment from living primarily in one parent's home; and they suffered more detriment when they were subject to a 50-50 custody schedule, or an unstable schedule. The studies showed that the younger the child, the more this holds true.

Generally speaking, of the 50-50 arrangements, the one-day-on, one-day-off schedule was found to be the worst for the child, but other 50-50 arrangements were not found to be significantly better.

Judith Wallerstein wrote, Second Chances. She may have published something that is more recent. Mary Ann Mason has done a lot of work in this general realm. Other literature, and counseling for divorced(ing) parents/families also may be available from the Center for Families in Transition, in San Rafael.

I got full physical and legal custody of my child when he was almost three. I created the Marital Settlement Agreement with my son's best interests in mind, which was to allow his father to see him four times a week for a few hours at a time, and have one or two sleepovers a month after 3.5 years, if the household was 'safe and adequate.' Although my ex was very bitter over wanting joint custody and half time, the truth is he sees his son between four and six hours one weekend day. Sometimes, when his son wants to see him for a briefer visit on Sunday, that happens, too.

The point here is that sometimes people don't know what they want til it happens. And, by my son settling into the pattern of seeing his dad once a week, he knows when and what to expect. Believe me, I would love for them to see each other more, for a variety of reasons, but apparently this is what my ex can handle. I was the primary caregiver before, about 99% of the time, when my son wasn't in daycare.

Neither my son nor his dad have asked for an overnight. My son has never asked for dad upon waking in the night. I am in favor of a primary residence for kids this age, based on my experience. I read everything I can get my hands on, and since my son's birth, have completely realigned my priorities. My ex did not. So don't give in too easily to yours now. And if you have to cave in, he may still not avail himself of the full amount of custody time to which he is entitled.

Considering divorce but worried about 2-year-old's custody

Oct 2007

I am considering leaving my marriage. I have a two-year old son which makes it so emotional and difficult for so many reasons. I am wondering who out there has been through this with such a young child and how you got through it (if you did...). My feeling is that my son is too young to be away from me (mama) for more than 2, 2 1/2 days. There are also substance issues with my husband (smoking weed) that concern me. I have not started any ''proceedings'' but I *have* started to worry as I think about the logisitics of it all. Thanks. Anon.

Hi, I separated from my children's father (we were never married) when my son was 2.5yr old. Our visitation schedule was that he stays mostly with me, but does one overnight during the week and one overnight on the weekend with Dad, plus one evening visit. This way, his primary home is with me (to provide stability), but he never goes more than 2 days without seeing his dad. Also, we made the transition very gradual, so that even after the father moved out, at first he visited every evening till my son went to sleep and then gradually we went to the visitation schedule. A book I found useful and very wise was ''What About the Kids? Raising your children before, during, and after divorce'' by Judith Wallerstein. The most wise advice I got from this book was that children's capacity to understand and their perception of the divorce changes as they go from 2 to 5 to 12 to 25yrs old, etc., so make opportunities to keep talking to them about it all through their lives (as it does affect them even through adulthood). For example, my son really had no clue what happened (esp. with our gradual transition) at 2.5, but now at 4 he understands much more. We talk about his feelings, desires, what happened (in an age-appropriate way) about this issue, in a way that's more substantial than when he was 2.5, whenever the opportunity comes up. Kim

Hello. I would hope that you will do everything in your power to keep your family intact if at all possible. Divorce is a horrible process for children. If there is abuse that is another story, if not read Divorce Busters before seeing a mediator or lawyer or even a marriage counselor. It may help you to see how devastating a separation can be. I am also in your boat. I separated from my husband after my son turned two. He was nursing and cosleeping with me so there was no way he would ever spend the night away from me. I also suspected drug abuse on my husband's part. Plus, I live in the primary home. I do not agree that it is beneficial for such small children to move back and forth out of a backpack. Schedule day visits with Daddy and keep it consistent. My son cries for his father occassionally but he needs to be with his mother full time. I have heard recommendations for a manny to help with my son's new found agression. My two cents. If possible, save your marriage. Toddler's Single Mom

Working out a 50/50 schedule for a 4-year-old

June 2007

I am seeking advice/feedback about approaches to scheduling custody for my child in the context of divorce and a shared custody agreement. Our child is 4 1/2 years old. We both are commited to active and regular presence in our child's life. We've discussed the following approaches:

Option One Alternating weeks where my wife or I have custody for a 7 day stretch, but the ''other'' parent is available if needed. For example my wife works Monday and Thursday evenings until about 8:00pm. On my off weeks, I would watch our child from 5:00pm to 8:30pm at her place until she gets home. We see this as an interim solution until the child is old enough to stay up, at which time the child would stay at my place until she picks him up.

Option Two
Alternatigng periods of custody, as it fits into my wife's work schedule.
Me: Mon Thurs Fri Sat. Mon Thurs Fri
My wife: Tues Wed Sun Tues Wed Sat Sun

This schedule fits my wife's work schedule, but subjects our child to three transitions per week between residences. I am concerned it will be too stressful. It does offer the benefit of each of us seeing our child often during the week. I am curious to learn about what works for people. How you have arranged to meet your child's needs, stay connected with your child, and stay sane. Thanks! Andrew

A year ago I left my marriage and moved into a nearby apartment. In the beginning things were very stressful for our son, and we did a 2-2-3 day schedule. The schedule, IMHO, made things worse, because with the many transitions things were left behind at one place or another, my son was confused about which parent he was with when, and perhaps worst of all, when he was with me, at least, he regarded those two or three days as ''special have-fun time'' rather than just regular work-week time.

Now we have switched to a alternating week schedule, and it's so much better! Our son moves from one parent to the other on Saturday afternoon, so each parent gets one ''weekend'' night for adult socializing. Some time during the week (usually Weds.) our son has dinner with the ''off'' parent, so there is scheduled time to anticipate. And he's always welcome to call or visit the ''off'' parent as time permits. I think that if we had started right out with the week-on, week-off schedule it would have worked as long as our son understood that the other parent was still available for conversation and visits.

The other advantage with the week-on, week-off is that the divorce seems more real and serious. With the other schedule it seemed to my son, I think, as if we were just visiting back and forth and waiting for the household to return to a ''normal'' (i.e., pre-divorce) state.

Good luck with whatever you decide -- it's tough at first but will get easier. no longer custodially challenged

It's great that you're asking and placing such a high priority on your son's emotional welfare, and it's great that you and your ex-wife are framing this discussion with the best interests of your son in mind. I would definitely recommend, of your two options, the first. And while each child is different, and some can handle more passing back and forth that others, I don't think your wife's work schedule should be the driving force in this situation. Divorces are chaotic for children, and I think it's important to create as much stability and constancy as is possible. I think the key word in your post was ''transitions.'' Transitions are tough on kids, and I would think that three transitions between two households in a week is way too much to ask of a young child already grappling with his parent's divorce. And I know that there are ways to stay intimately connected with your son without so much shuffling back and forth.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and I would say that, fifty years later, it is still the defining feature of my first thirty years. I did not see my father very often (Sunday afternoons every other week, very typical back then), and it was certainly not enough and created a lot of longing on my part. As tough as that was, and while that was not enough time with my dad, it would have been even worse to have been bounced around throughout the week.

And it gets much harder when the kids are older and there's homework, sports, friendships, sleepovers involved. That may seem like a long way off, but I think it's good to plan for the big picture because it's really not so far off anymore. Best of luck working everything out

Saw your post about working out a custody schedule and wanted to offer my two cents as a stepmom whose stepchild was the same age as yours at time of parents' divorce.

I *strongly* recommend the week-on, week-off approach. It became our schedule and remained that way until our child went to college. While you miss having more frequent personal contact with the child during the 7-day stretch at the other parent's home, you can talk on the phone each day after school and/or at bedtime, and there are always school and sporting events that crop up that allow for more time together, even all 3 of you.

In addition to limiting transitions, it also provides you with adult and alone time every second weekend, which can be a treasure, particularly after a busy week of single parenthood and when either parent starts dating again.

One more thing: make sure you provide an entire wardrobe, set of books/toys, etc. at each house so nothing has to be lugged back and forth. Even if that means buying more school clothes, games, or whatever, it is 100% worth it to have both places truly be home rather than one primary and one secondary place. Good luck! Fellow custody-sharer

Hi - Option 2 seems really hard for the child, too many transitions. I read somewhere that ''they'' (whoever they are) have determined having one home base all the time, where a high percentage of the child's time is always spent, is best for the child. Your Option 1 is closest to that and unlike the usual single mother scenario, it allows you each to have sort of a life. It's nice to see a dad giving this kind of effort and great for your kid that you can work together. single mom

I am very sorry for what you are going through and I applaud that you have asked for advice here. I may be biased because my daughter is the same age and I am in a simliar situation, but I feel that too many transitions is not going to be good when your child begins school next year. I have seen several of my own students come in dazed and confused after spending the night away from their primary home. You are awesome to agree to watch him at her home, so keep it up if it remains amicable. It seems more appropriate that you stay with your son at his mom's house until she comes home. You can transition your son into staying at your home as he gets older and more used to that idea. What would be really great is a reconciliation if at all possible. Sorry, I had to poke that last part in! Separated Too

Custody schedule changes for kindergarten

Nov 2002

The son of our, ahem, remodeled family will be going to kindergarten next year, and we're thinking hard about whether we need to change our custody schedule.

The Context: we have an amicable divorce, and a happy, well adjusted, 50th percentile behavior kid. Right now, we have roughly a 3/4 split, on a daily basis, I.E. 3 days with dad, 4 with mom, every week. It's more complicated than that, but let's not go there...

We're gettting strong signals that won't work when he goes to school, but it's not clear to me WHO that won't work for. Teachers? They've got a tough job, god knows, but frankly, they are not my prime concern, thank you very much. The child his ownself?

So, fellow remodelers, what did y' all do, assuming more or less equal custody, when Junior hit elementary school? What worked, what was ''worth of improvement? A Devoted Dad

You've got the right priorities when you're looking at what works best for your family[ies], not the school. If your present arrangements don't work, you'll realize it within the first couple of weeks of school. I don't think there's any reason to change it as ''preparation'' for kindergarten. If necessary, wait long enough in the school year that your child has done that basic transition, then change the custody arrangements later in the fall. (Just as a practical note, in case you're not doing this already, I advise you to keep pajamas, fresh clothing, and basic toys at both houses. Then, your kindergartener will only be hauling ''special'' items -- along with school work -- back and forth during the school day.) also divorced

I'm in exactly the same boat, but a year ahead of you. So far this year no issues specific to our split family have come up. There are some logistic things-making sure assignments and events are communicated to both sides, etc. There has been no negative feedback from teacher or our son, so I can't think of any reason for it not working unless someone no longer wants it to work. Mind you, our current situation is the result of much mediating and money, and there was no hint from our mediater that the split would be unworkable, or even have any negative effects. If things are good now they should be good in a year. Kean

We had about 10 days Mom, 4 days Dad per each 2 weeks when my daughter started Kindergarten. In the 5 years since, we have very slowly moved towards 1/2 each -- we currently have 8 days mom, 6 days dad. It works fine. I've heard (and used!) the arguement that a very young child needs the security of ''most'' time at one stable home. But in my experiences with therapist, psychiatrists, mediators, and lawyers, they generally tend to encourage as much time as possible with each parent. Although we have had our share of disagreements around custody, none of them had anything to do with school. I can't imagine why that would make any difference at all. anon

Give it your best shot and then resolve to be flexible. You will probably need to make changes as you go along. We started out with 4days, 3 days. We live within 1 mile of each other. By the 4th grade, we found a split-week schedule to be causing more problems than it solved. There was more homework, more papers going home, music lessons where the instrument was at the wrong house on the wrong day. The schools are usually not set up to send duplicate papers to two houses so a high degree of communication and coordination is needed if the weekdays are split between 2 houses. In our case this was difficult to sustain over time. It was complicated by a kid who knew how to work the system, telling one parent the homework was at the other parent's house to get out of doing it. He even occasionally played hooky by setting out for school and then going to the other parent's house after everybody had left for work. So we eventually figured out to have him at the house with the most supervision during the week (mom worked at home), and then going to the other house Friday after school. The downside is one parent only sees the kids on weekends, and the other parent never gets to have downtime with the kids on the weekends. However if you are flexible you can work in weekday dinners with the weekend parent and Saturday afternoon get- togethers with the week-day parent.

For us the benefits outweighed the disadvantages. Here are the benefits: there was regular monitoring by one parent of all the school related activities, the teachers knew who to call, all the school papers came to one place, there was no confusion about who was supposed to be where when, and plus the kids' friends knew to call the mom's house during the week and the dad's house on the weekend (not a trivial issue as they get older.) The dad did not like seeing the kids less, but in terms of the kids general welfare we both agreed that it worked much better this way once we all got used to it. And in the summer and on holidays you can reverse weekdays/weekend houses. Anon

Working out 50/50 custody for 5 and 7 year olds

April 2006

Hi, all. My (ex) partner and I are trying to work out a shared custody schedule for our daughters, who are five and seven. We are having a heck of a time -- who decided the week should have an uneven number of days, anyway? So I'm wondering what other parents have done. . . We want as close to 50/50 custody as we can arrange; we want to alternate weekends if possible, and we don't want either too many or too few transitions back and forth each week. Although in many ways a week on/week off schedule would be ideal, it's simply too long for the girls to be away from either parent (and too long for the parents too!). Please let me know what you've done, or what you've heard others do. I'd really appreciate it! Thanks.

I share custody of my now 11 year old daughter with her dad, and have since she was an infant. By the time she started kindergarten, we moved to a 50/50 routine that has worked reasonably well. Like you, I did not want a one-week-on, one- week-off routine--for many reasons including the fact that it was too long and also that if I had regular weeknights off, I could do a class or whatever. So we do a 2-2-5-5: I have her every Monday and Tuesday nights; her dad has her every Wednesday and Thursday nights, and we alternate weekends from Friday to Monday. Most of her transitions now occur at school. Good luck to you. rita

Hi, I had the same situation you describe. The transitions were hard on my child when we tried to split the week and it seemed he was always comming or going. Homework was a mess because it started the week at one house and ended at another. I had the end part of the week and got stuck with the undone homework from the beginning. If he had a class one day a week then that parent was always stuck taking him. Also, I didn't want him to be gone all week and it was too long for him too.

Finally we opted for 1 week on and 1 week off + Wednesday evening of the week off. There were no transition issues because it was mostly a matter of picking him up from afterschool care, taking him out (or home) to dinner, doing some homework if necessary, but having him home in time for whatever homework/bedtime schedule the other parent had set. We got to see each other mid-week in a sort of ''treat'' like time. I liked taking him out because it was a very focused time with him and I also got a break on my single parent ''on'' week. We also got first dibs on ''babysitting'' if the other parent had something to do. He's now 15 and we're still doing this and it works - he's really used to it. every other week mom

I've heard of a concept called perhaps ''nesting'' (?) where the children stay in the family house and the PARENTS rotate from the family house to an apartment that both parents use. When I first heard of this it sounded so radical but makes sense - why ask the kids to uproot themselves because you decide to divorce? Not that divorce is a decision you take lightly, but it's a way to protect your most important, vulnerable and dependent assets, your children. anon

Here is the arrangement we had: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday night and one house. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday night at the other house. Saturday switched off. So, transitions occurred on Wednesdays (usually after school) and then on either Saturday morning or Sunday evening depending on whose weekend it was.

The main advantage was that you could plan events knowing where the kids would be based on the day of the week and the kids could keep track of where they were supposed to be the same way. This was sometimes a disadvantage in that it meant that some things always happened at one house. We were able to provide some flexibility in trading if things came up.

As the kids got older, it felt like too many transitions and week-to-week would have been better, but it was so entrenched at that point that we couldn't convince their other parent or the kids themselve to change it.

I know other people have had Monday, Tuesday at one house, Wednesday, Thursday at the other house and alternating Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It's essentially 5 days, 2 days, 2 days, 5 days, which would have been too many transitions for us. And two days never felt like it would be long enough for the kids to settle in.

Good luck figuring out what works for your family! Done with custody

I have friends who are divorced and co-parent, have 50/50 share and have every other weekend. It works like this: Dad always has Monday and Tuesday, Mom always has Wednesday and Thursday; Friday, Saturday and Sunday alternate between Mom and Dad. This way the child never goes longer than five days without seeing the other parent and there is a lot of support for a phone call to the other parents house if the child wants it. Hope this helps, divorced mom

My ex-husband and I tried different variations on the split week -- in general they would be at one house for 3 days, and then the other house for 4 days. His job was less flexible so I would often pick them up from school and spend the afternoon with them even on the days when they were at his house. We tried to arrange things so that we each got them one day out of the weekend. When they got to high school, and they could get around town on their own, the schedule became much more flexible, and we'd informally agree on changes from month to month. At one point, the two kids were not getting along at all and fighting a lot, so we made a schedule where we each had one of them for one week, and then traded. In retrospect, the 4 days on and 3 days off was a bad schedule for a school-aged child, or at least for our school-aged kids. The main reason we did it that way was because neither mom nor dad wanted to go more than 4 days without seeing the kids. But I don't believe it was really in the best interest of the kids. Neither of the kids was organized enough to plan for musical instruments, sports equipment, homework, long-term school projects switching back and forth between houses. So, the homework goes home on dad's day, but it's due on mom's day and is still over at dad's, not even started yet. The karate class is on dad's day but the uniform is in the dirty clothes hamper at mom's house. There were a lot of little problems like this all the time, and they were compounded by chilly relations between dad and mom, and the kids' general tendency to be disorganized and forgetful. I believe it really had a negative effect on their school performance. Who knows, maybe they would have been poor students anyway, but it can't have helped. I wish we could have worked something out that had more structure where the kids were primarily at one house, still seeing the other parent frequently. Probably neither parent would have agreed to that, but I do think it would have been more beneficial for the kids. a mom

As a family law attorney, I can tell you that a great shared custody arrangement is the ''2-2-3/2-2-3'' schedule. Over a 14 day period, it works like this:
Mon and Tuesday with Mom Wed and Thurs with Dad Fri Sat Sun with Mom Mon and Tues with Dad Wed and Thurs with Mom Fri Sat Sun with Dad
This system assures the kids go no longer than 3 days without the other parent and weekends are shared. You might also want to use a ''yahoo groups'' calander to keep track of who has what days and also post doctor appointment and birthday parties, school functions, etc. good luck!

Custody schedule for 7 and 11 year olds

Feb 2008

He is moving out. How do we figure out how much time our kids spend with whom and when? I want to have them a little more than he does initially, just because I have been their primary caregiver forever. The girls are almost 7 and almost 11 years old. I am thinking maybe I could have them from Wednesday afternoon (a day I normally pick them up early from school) to Sunday morning, and maybe we could hang out a bit Sunday morning all together sometimes, so they can see we are working to get along and support them together. Then he could take them Sunday-Weds. But is that too disruptive? I am just having so much trouble even imagining a single night away from them, a week sounds like way too long...but I want to be fair to them, too. And to him (working towards eventually having them 50/50, especially if they want that). What have you done that worked? Thank you! Needs Info

There is no single parenting time arrangement that works best for all families. The important thing, at this pointe, especially for the well-being of your children, is for you and your husband to receive some counseling about the issues involved in setting up a parenting time arrangement and making it work. Just of few of the key issues to consider are: (a) the nature of the children's relationship with each of you in the past, (b)any special needs the children may have that might be more easily met by one of you, (c)the capacity of the two of you to communicate & cooperate with each other, (d)the children's views and needs, (e) the ability to be flexible and alter the schedule as the children's views/needs change, or as the parents' circumstances change, and (f) logistics (i.e., where each of you will live and where the children go to school, etc). Keep in mind that the most important factors in children's long-term well-being following divorce is not the divorce per se, but the quality parent-child relationships and the quality of post-divorce parental relationships. A few good books to read include: C.Ahrons, The Good Divorce; Keeping your family together when your marriage comes apart; E. Taylor, Helping children cope with divorce; P.Stahl, Parenting after divorce: A guide for resolving conflicts and meeting your children's needs. Good luck, David

This is really hard, and you have my sympathy. I have been separated and now divorced from my ex-husband for nearly two years. We have one eleven-year-old son. We agreed from the beginning that we would do 50/50 custody, though this was in part because I left and because my ex did a lot of childcare. It was hard for both my ex and me to miss time with my son, and hard for my son, too. But what we found is that dividing up the week is way too hard. At first we had a 2-2-3 day schedule, and it was stressful and hard to manage, especially for our son. Now we have one week with mom, next week with dad, switching off on Saturdays. On Wednesday the ''off'' parent gets to have our son. This has been working reasonably well. A lot will depend on what your children's father wants (he has a right to ask for half-time custody unless there are mitigating circumstances, as I understand it) and how your daughters feel. It would be best to consult with you husband and perhaps a mediator to talk about options. Other things to consider: birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc. I wish you the best of luck. shared custody

What we did when we seperated was and still is in effect after 10 years: Our daughter is with me most of the time. She's with her dad every other weekend and every Wednesday night. When she turned 10 she wanted to see him more so we added every other Thursday night (on the week that she spent the weekend with me). It's been fine. She sometimes feels like she's going back and forth a bit and will leave things at her dad's house that she needs at my house, but for the most part we made sure she had enough clothes, toys, books, stuffed animals at both houses. We always felt that if we needed to change it we would, that it wasn't etched in stone. You might try it one way and then change it if you need to. Especially with two kids you might want to make time where each of you has time with the kids seperatly.

FYI, in order claim Head of Household on your taxes, you have to have your kids at least 51% of the time. So, I do that and he takes her as a deduction. Good luck! anon

My parents split 26 years ago, when I was 8 years-old, and my siblings were 12 and 13. They shared custody 50-50, and we kids went back and forth between them every Sunday evening. Even though our parents lived just a few miles apart, the changing of houses was always extraordinarily stressful: we had to pack up our stuff and readjust to a new home-culture every single week \xc2\x96different rules, different meals, different levels of organization & cleanliness, etc. We were always unsettled on the first Monday at school. And, as Sundays approached, we'd have this imminent feeling that we were going to betray the parent we were leaving, who would invariably radiate sadness at our nearing departure. Finally, after almost 10 years of this, as a senior in high school, I asked to change the arrangement to 2-months-2-months, and everything was much improved. I had a chance to just BE in one place for a while. To settle in. To unpack my clothes and get used to being in one place or another. I still saw the other parent for dinner or breakfast once a week or so. And although I don\xc2\x92t know this for sure, I think it was easier for my parents too. They could plan longer- term things for themselves, and if they ever missed me, they\xc2\x92d just call and see if I could share a meal with them. So, for what it\xc2\x92s worth, I\xc2\x92d recommend that your kids change homes less frequently rather than more frequently. (BTW, all three of us grew up and got married and had kids and are basically fine!). anon