How Much Parenting Time is Feasible for Your Parenting Plan?
Figuring Out How Much Parenting Time is Feasible for Your Family in Tennessee Parenting Plans – Part 3
One way to start designing a parenting plan for your family’s needs is to consider how many days per year the non-primary parent wants for parenting time. A lot may depend on the distance and the method of travel. If, for example, you’re two hours away rather than six, perhaps you would both be agreeable to more parenting time than if you were six hours away. Determine how much parenting time you want if you’re the non-primary parent, factoring in the method or ease of travel, travel time, and having time to yourself. It’s not in the children’s best interests to do a lot of traveling; they need time to be with the primary parent, to do extracurricular activities, and to be with friends. Figure out a reasonable plan for parenting time taking all the above into consideration. You may find that twice a month is do-able or that once a month is sufficient. You may logistically only be able to have parenting time once every three or four months.
Another consideration is the holiday and recess schedule. This will depend on the children’s age; additional parenting time can be built into the plan when the children get older. Parenting time will depend on work schedules, school schedules, and distance; the feasibility of constant traveling during the year; and special traditions or occasions. It is common for parents to alternate holidays so that one parent gets Thanksgiving while the other parent generally gets Christmas. When parents live nearby, sometimes Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be split between the parents.
When long-distance is introduced into the equation, the situation changes because it is generally not feasible to split Christmas. One way to handle this is that one parent has the Christmas holidays plus a few extra days, and the other parent has the remainder of the Christmas vacation along with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. There is no set way to divvy up the holidays, so your goal is to do whatever works for you and your family. Additionally, because of distance, not all holidays will be alternated. It’s going to be too much of a hassle for the children to constantly travel back-and-forth. It’s most important for the major holidays to be shared and alternated, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter or Passover. Other weekends, such as Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, President’s Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day can be put into the plan or even into the rotation of holidays. It might be a good idea to make this parenting time optional. It shouldn’t be mandatory, especially because of cost, travel and the toll it takes on the parents and children.
Recesses can be divided in half, such as the Christmas and New Year’s holiday as outlined above, or one parent can take the whole week and the other parent can take the next long holiday recess. There is no requirement that parenting time happen each time there is a holiday or a recess, so you’re going to want to put in your plan what happens when the non-primary parent says “no” to parenting time. There should be some advance notice to the primary parent if recess parenting time is declined at any time. This permits the primary parent to make plans with the children or know whether she has to cancel vacation plans for herself. Likewise, the primary parent should be required to give notice by a certain date of any changes in the schedule. For example, let’s say one of the children has a special tournament during a week that would ordinarily be the non-primary parent’s time. What happens to the schedule? The parents are going to have to be flexible so that perhaps the non-primary parent will get the next long week with the children. Flexibility has to be built into the parenting plan on both sides because you’re dealing with variables such as distance, weather, children’s schedules, your schedules, cost of travel, time for traveling, and other unknown variables.
Summer vacation can be either a blessing or a headache, depending on how you split it up. Is the non-primary parent going to get a few weeks in the summer, half the summer, or the whole summer? This is a matter of individual preference, but it is a huge roadblock in many relocation cases. What happens if the children want to go to summer camp? It might be that the non-primary parent will only get a week or two with the children at the end of the summer. Again, flexibility is going to be the key, along with compromise.
There was a case where a father kept a log of how much time each parent had the children and which parent had more minutes with the children than the other parent. This was more than micro-managing; it was directed against the other parent out of spite and control. The parenting times do not have to be equal, and in long-distance parenting plans, that won’t be possible. It’s more important for there to be quality time with each parent than for there to be a continual change of location; nobody wants the children to live out of a suitcase. The better course is to avoid an hour and minute-keeping journal and focus on quality time with each parent. As for summer vacation, whatever works best for all of you should be the key. If the non-primary parent rarely sees the children during the year, he may want the entire summer with the children. If he sees the children often during the year, half the summer or a few weeks during the summer might be sufficient.
Additional Parts of Tennessee Long-Distance Parenting Plans: A Roadmap for Relocation:
- Smart Travel Plans for Parents’ Long Distance Visitation
- Resolving Children’s Travel Issues Before They Become Problematic
- Figuring out How Much Parenting Time is Feasible for Your Family
- Make-Up Parenting Time and Flexibility
- Denial of Parenting Time and an “Override Option”
- Including Time of Day for Travel and What to do in the Event of a Delay
- Scheduling Conflicts, Communication with Children and Special Needs