Developing a child custody schedule that is in the best interest of your child and works for both you and your co-parent can be more difficult than you think. This is especially true if you and your co-parent have full-time careers and your child is involved in many different activities.
You are not required to come up with your own custody schedule, but if you do not, you are likely headed into custody court.
Custody agreements versus custody court
This means that a family court judge will make the schedule for you, as well as any other custody decisions, such as how exchanges take place and how you and your co-parent communicate with one another.
Working with your co-parent to come up with your own schedule will undoubtedly be complicated and frustrating at times, but you are likely to end up with a better result than a judge would.
As you begin to think about what your custody schedule will look like, remember that Georgia, like most other states, uses a best interest of the child standard when determining custody.
Remember that your child comes first
This means that your ultimate focus should be on what is best for your child. You should still keep your own life and schedule in mind, but if you can be flexible and compromise in one or more areas for the benefit of your child, you should do that.
Do not view it as a win or lose situation with your co-parent. Children pick up on tension and bitterness between parents more than you think.
When it comes to the schedule itself, keep any special needs of your child in mind.
If your child has special medical needs and has more doctor’s appointments than most children, giving more custody time to the parent with the more flexible schedule is probably best, even if that parent is not you.
Avoid too much back and forth
As to the custody schedule itself, generally a schedule that minimizes the number of exchanges is best. Children can get stressed out with going back and forth between households frequently.
Additionally, a schedule involving too much back and forth prevents the child from spending meaningful, quality time with each parent. This is particularly true if your child is involved in a lot of school or extracurricular activities.
Sharing custody on a weekly basis is sometimes the best way to ensure some stability and predictability for your child, while reducing the number of exchanges.
Ways to remain in contact on your off weeks
The downside to this schedule is that many parents do not want to go a full week without seeing their child. A solution to this might be allowing the other parent one or two evenings with the child on their “off weeks” to have dinner or spend time with the child for a few hours.
Additionally, no matter whose custody time is it, children usually benefit from having both parents attend their events or activities. This not only allows both parents to see the child as much as possible, but the child will see both parents putting their personal issues aside for their benefit.
Your child’s wishes
There is no set age that a child can choose their own custody schedule. Although as your child gets older they can more articulately express which parent they would like to live with and when, the choice under the law is never really up to the child. However, you should still take your child’s wishes into consideration as they get older.
The process of determining what works best for you takes time. It is best to talk over you situation and options with an experienced custody attorney.