Shreshtha Garg, Family Law Associate
It is that time of year again, where we see school buses on the road, children from the neighbourhood with their backpacks or even waiting to be dropped to school. It’s the back-to-school season! For both parents and children, this time of year can be associated with a lot of things, few being the excitement of reuniting with school friends, the intrigue of trying out new extra-curricular activities, and the anticipation that comes with returning to a regular routine.
For some families, the hype of the back-to-school season also brings with it the return of parenting arrangement and schedules, which run complementary to each other. For families who use parenting schedules, these must accommodate for school drop offs, pick ups, planning around extracurricular activities and field trips, as well as scheduling for social time with peers. Understandably, this can come as a source of stress when one is unprepared.
Parenting Time Arrangements
Before thinking about parenting schedules, it may be helpful for us to first consider the many types of parenting time arrangements that exist.
- Shared vs. Majority Parenting Time Arrangements
Shared parenting time is a type of parenting time arrangement in which a child spends at least forty percent (40%) of the time with each parent. In this type of arrangement, parents often try to maintain similar rules and routines within both households. This type of arrangement tends to be preferred by the courts, as it allows both parents to take an active role in the life of their child.
Majority parenting time is where a child spends more than sixty percent (60%) of the time with one parent. In this type of arrangement, the child’s primary residence will be provided as the household in which they spend the majority of their time.
- Fixed vs. Reasonable Parenting Time Arrangements
Fixed parenting time is a type of parenting time arrangement in which the parents agree to follow a detailed schedule. This can be helpful for some families, as the parents and the child always know what to expect and where the child will be on any given date.
Reasonable parenting time is an arrangement which allows for more flexibility in the parenting time, provided that the parents follow the general description of the agreed upon arrangement. For example, the parenting arrangement might provide that the child will spend two overnights per week with Parent A and the rest of the time with Parent B. This type of arrangement can only be effective in families in which both parents are able to communicate well.
- Supervised Parenting Time Arrangements
Supervised parenting time is (often) a temporary arrangement imposed by the court to allow the parent to continue to have access to their child, while being supervised by a third party. This type of arrangement usually also necessitates the use of a majority parenting time arrangement for the occasions when the supervised parent does not have supervised access to the child. While this is usually a temporary arrangement, it can also be used on a long-term basis for families who find that this arrangement works best for them.
Types of Parenting Schedules
There are many options for creating parenting schedules and, as we discussed, parenting schedules can be either fixed or flexible, within the larger parenting time arrangement. Some of the more common fixed parenting time schedules include:
- 2-2-3 Schedule
This type of schedule involves the child spending the first two days of the first week with Parent A, then the next two days with the Parent B, before returning to the Parent A for the remaining three days. For the second week, the child would spend the first two days with Parent B, then the next two days with Parent A, before returning to Parent B for the remaining three days. This schedule repeats bi-weekly. This type of parenting time schedule can be helpful, especially for young children, as it allows frequent contact with both parents throughout the week and the attachment with both the parents remain consistent. This type of schedule can be used with shared parenting time arrangements, as both parents end up with equal parenting time of the child.
- Alternating Weeks Schedule
In an alternating weeks schedule, the child would switch households every seven days rather than throughout the week. The transition days can be determined by the parents or the court and can be set to any day of the week. This type of parenting schedule tends to work better with older children, who are better able to handle being away from one parent for a longer period of time. This type of schedule can be used with shared parenting time arrangements, as both parents end up with equal parenting time of the child (or children).
- Alternating Weekends Schedule
In an alternating weekends schedule, one parent gets to have parenting time with the child every other weekend. This works out to the parent on the alternating weekends schedule having about twenty percent (20%) of the parenting time. As such, this type of parenting time schedule is only available to families who are using a majority parenting time arrangement.
- First, Third, and Fifth Weekends Schedule
In this type of schedule, the child would live primarily with one parent but would spend the first, third, and fifth weekends of a month with the other parent. As not all months have five weekends, the parent who has their parenting time according to this schedule would only see their chid twice in a month that only have four weekends. Like the alternating weekends schedule, this type of parenting time schedule is only available to families who are using a majority parenting time arrangement
Tips for Successful Parenting Time
- Try to allow your child (or children) to spend equal time with each parent, if possible and unless special circumstances dictate otherwise.
- Consider what is in the best interest of your child (or children) when making your parenting time arrangement and schedule. Consider: their age, their education level, their extra-curricular involvement, their social needs, etc.
- Be aware of your child’s (or children’s) unique perspective and desires when drafting your parenting time arrangement and schedule. This is especially the case for older children, who may have their own opinion about what they would like to see in the arrangement.
It is important to remember that just because one particular parenting time schedule is a good fit for one family, does not necessarily mean that it will also be a good fit for your family. It is important to consider your specific needs, as a family, when determining which time schedule and arrangement would be best for you.
If you would like more information or assistance with this type of issue, please reach out to Shreshtha Garg or contact Lister Beaupré LLP directly by phone at 613-234-2500 or by email at email@example.com.
Note: This post does not address situations where parties have other arrangements. It is always wise to consult with a lawyer for assistance with your specific circumstances.