Establishing a child visitation schedule (commonly referred to as creating a “parenting plan” or “parenting agreement”) is one of the more challenging aspects of a divorce that involves young children. As an experienced Tampa, FL family lawyer – including those who work at The McKinney Law Group – can confirm, determining “your child’s best interests” and then drawing up a plan that works for both you and your child’s other parent can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, you don’t have to tackle this consequential task alone – working with a lawyer can help to ensure that your plan is manageable, enforceable, and “covers all your bases.”
Your Children’s Basic Needs
Your primary concern should be creating living situations that make your children feel that they have permanent, nurturing homes rather than temporary accommodations. It is essential to develop an appropriate environment that includes:
- A suitable and appropriately decorated sleeping area
- An assortment of favorite games and toys
- A plentiful supply of healthy foods and beverages
- A designated and well-equipped homework area
- Ample closet and drawer space
- Sufficient toiletries and hygiene supplies
Where You and Your Spouse Live
Both parents maintain homes within proximity of each other under an ideal visitation schedule, but that is not always practical. Parents who live in different states most often agree that one parent should provide their children’s primary home. The other should enjoy a reasonable parenting schedule, including long weekends. Setting up a visitation schedule under such circumstances must take into consideration children’s routines, including extra-curricular activities, to ensure they benefit from stability and consistency.
The Influence Both Parents Have
Parenting children in separate households requires both parents to understand how they will address specific situations. Presenting a united front regarding privileges, discipline, nutrition, religion, responsibilities, and other areas can give children a sense of security and continuity as they move between households.
Fairness to Everyone
A visitation schedule should (ideally) ensure that both parents play a significant role in their children’s lives and enjoy time with them. Holidays, vacations, and special events all require special consideration when preparing a visitation schedule. Ideally, both parents will share these days with their children equally, and planning can help to achieve this.
Flexibility Reduces Conflict
It is helpful to have a mindset that fosters flexibility when working with a former spouse to establish a child visitation schedule. Knowing that interruptions to a standard routine may happen occasionally and graciously accepting them will help to avoid conflicts that children could internalize.
No two co-parents can approach the creation of their parenting schedule in exactly the same way. The above points serve as general guidance, nothing more. Speak with an attorney about your family’s unique needs as you approach the process of creating a parenting agreement.