Summer time means family vacations, whether you’re married with kids or a divorced dad. A child custody vacation schedule is one of the most complex aspects of a divorce in New Jersey, but creating a regular schedule for the school year can be challenging. too. Both parties must consider the child’s school and each parent’s work and financial situation before setting a concrete schedule. Until the plan is approved by the courts or mediator, every move you make with your children can have an effect on the outcome.
Here are seven things you need to know before you make a parenting and visitation schedule.
School, Holiday, and Summer Break
Under New Jersey divorce laws, there are three schedules that your family will follow throughout the year: school, holiday and summer. Custody arrangements will normally change between these three schedules since your child’s day-to-day schedule is also modified during the holidays and on summer break.
The school cycle is sometimes referred to as the residential cycle, the repeating cycle of custody and visitation, or the basic cycle. As the name suggests, this primary custody schedule generally runs from the start of the school year through the start of summer break. A custody arrangement during the school year is usually the same from week to week, or at least from month to month.
The summer schedule may vary from the residential cycle. It takes into account the fact that kids will need to be supervised during the day since they won’t be at school. Parents may also use this same type of schedule when children have longer breaks during the school year.
The holiday schedule will take precedence over the residential schedule during specified holidays throughout the year. The holiday schedule is usually the most uniquely attuned to each family’s unique religious and cultural needs.
Parenting Time May Be Split in Four Different Ways
When creating a custody arrangement, parenting time may be split in four different ways.
80/20 Custody Schedule
An 80/20 schedule is common when one parent has sole custody of the child. In this case, the child lives with one parent 80% of the time, and the remaining 20% of the time is spent with the other parent.
70/30 Custody Schedule
Custody schedules 70/30 are very similar to the 80/20 schedule. The child will spend 70% of the time with one parent and 30% of the time with the other.
With this type of arrangement, the child still has a primary home with one parent, but is able to spend a little more time with the other parent.
60/40 Custody Schedule
As its name suggests, a 60/40 arrangement will give one parent 60% of the time with the child, while the other parent gets 40%. This schedule may be agreed to by parents who want to get as close as possible to a 50/50 schedule while also maintaining stability for their child during the school week.
50/50 Custody Schedule
A joint parenting schedule, or 50/50 schedule, allows both parents to enjoy an equal amount of time with the child. Joint parenting is growing in popularity, and many family law judges prefer it over other arrangements.
Split Custody and Joint Custody Are Two Different Things
Most people understandably assume that split and joint custody are the same thing, but they’re actually quite different.
In a split custody arrangement, the parents split the physical custody of their children. One child lives with one parent, while the other child lives with the other parent. Naturally, this type of custody is only applicable to families that have multiple children.
Joint custody, on the other hand, splits the child’s time with the parents and both parents will have a say in decisions involving the child.
Split custody is not a common arrangement, as most counselors and courts (and parents) agree that it’s often in the best interests of the children for siblings to stay together. But there are some situations where split custody may be a good option.
A split custody arrangement may be suitable in cases involving:
- Teenagers who want to bond with the parent of the same gender, or explore their freedom by living with the other parent.
- Extreme relationship issues, either between the parents or the children. Courts will recommend trying to resolve these issues, but there are instances where split custody is the better option.
- Dangerous sibling relationships. While very rare, there may be cases where the siblings have mental or physical issues that make them a danger to the people around them. In this case, a split custody arrangement may be best, and both siblings can visit one another with proper supervision.
Parenting Schedules Must Meet State Guidelines and Your Child’s Needs
The courts want to do what’s best for each family, so judges are fine with allowing parents to come together to create a parenting plan everyone can agree on. You don’t have to leave your child custody schedule up to a judge, as long as you can get along well enough with your ex to come to an agreement.
While parents are free to make their own schedules, it must be in line with the laws that govern child custody in New Jersey. The schedule must also meet the child’s emotional, physical and social needs.
If your parenting plan does not meet state guidelines, it won’t be accepted by the court. Make sure that you understand the laws and consult with your New Jersey divorce lawyer when creating your parenting time plan.
Your Schedule May Change as the Child Gets Older
Your children’s needs will change as they grow older, which means your parenting schedule may change, too. If your kid changes schools, develops new medical needs, or experiences conflict with one parent, you can always ask the court to reassess your custody order. In many cases, courts even allow teenagers to decide where they want to live.
Parenting Schedules Can Get Complicated if Parents Live in Different States
When parents are living in two different states, creating a balanced parenting schedule can be difficult. One state will have jurisdiction over the other when it comes to custody proceedings, and both parents will need to follow that state’s laws.
If both parents live far from each other, parenting schedules may have fewer exchanges to accommodate the long travel distance. For example, some parents choose to split custody in such a way that the child is in one state for the school year and the other state for summer break.
If You Cannot Agree On a Customized Schedule, a Standard Agreement May Be Enacted
In an ideal world, you and your ex would put your differences aside and create a customized parenting agreement that works for all involved parties and gives the children a fair amount of time with each parent. However, if you and your partner cannot agree on a schedule, a standard custody agreement may be put in place. A standard agreement will give the non-custodial parent one evening per week and every other weekend with the child.
If you’re a loving dad who’s just split from your wife, the idea of having such limited time with your kids is understandably unpleasant. That’s why I believe both parents should ideally be involved in the process of creating a parenting schedule. Only you and your co-parent know what’s best for your child, so don’t leave it up to a judge to make these difficult calls. If you and your ex can set aside your differences, you can create a schedule that works well for everyone and gives the child adequate time with each parent.