What are some suggested guidelines for sharing parenting time with children after separation or divorce?
Parenting time is any time a kid is in the custody of one of their parents, regardless of whether the child is physically present (this includes times when children are in school, for instance). A schedule for parenting time may be created. If you were granted “access” by the Divorce Act as a parent, you now have “parenting time.”
A parent with parenting time has the right to inquire about, and must receive information from, the other parent or a third party (such as the school, a doctor), on the health, education, and welfare of the children, unless the court directs otherwise. The mediator-arbitrator works with parents to establish a parenting plan that spells out who is responsible for what and how much time will be spent with each of you.
The starting point is thinking about your children as they are NOW – age, personality, special interests… and knowing that as they get older, the parenting schedule will need to adapt to their changing needs.
Here are some important things to consider:
- Temperament/Personality – every child is different. Some are outgoing, confident, adventuresome, resilient, and flexible while others are shy, anxious, fearful, and welcome routines. The parenting arrangements for all ages must suit your child’s temperament – and different siblings may need different plans.
- Age – pre-school children have very different concepts of time from school age. Short periods of time seem much longer until they reach about age six. Infants need shorter time periods away from a primary caregiver and more frequent, predictable arrangements. As children reach school age, they tend to be more comfortable with longer periods of contact with the other parent.
- Predictable – children, especially pre-teenage – adjust well to a predictable routine so that their world makes sense, their anxiety is reduced, and they can begin to make plans for when to see friends, participate in activities and complete their schoolwork. Their lives have a more normal rhythm.
- Reasonable for Parents’ Work Schedule – Parenting plans need to fit the parents’ reality. For those who work shifts or travel a lot, the schedule needs to be one that parents keep so that children have a sense of trust and security. There will be unexpected events or illnesses, but the plan should be realistic.
- One-on-One Time – Children often enjoy one-on-one time with each parent if possible – especially if the children are different ages, have significantly different interests, or tend to compete for parental attention when together. It is a pleasure to plan an activity that each child would like and have an uninterrupted one-on-one conversation.