When moms and dads separate, it’s always difficult to decide how to share time with your children.  Sometimes parents agree their kids should spend a majority of time with one parent and other times its decided the children should share time equally with both parents.  Once the general time concept is figured out, then the parents need to figure out how best to craft those periods of time.  It’s usually at this point when clients look at me and say “Now what?  How do we figure out a schedule?”

First and foremost, it’s important to keep in mind your family’s activities and patterns.  Do your children have regularly scheduled activities that always fall on the same day?  Does one side of the family always celebrate on Christmas Eve?  Does one parent regularly need to travel, or work late?

When you get a handle on the family schedule, then you can craft a parenting time schedule that best suits everybody.  There isn’t any “one size fits all” parenting schedule, and if the courts need to implement a parenting schedule, the judge is likely to follow the same analysis outlined above and ask him/herself “What schedule would work for this family?”

If one parent has more than 50% of the time with the children, he/she will have “primary residential responsibility” (in North Dakota) or “physical custody” (in Minnesota).  Parenting schedules may look like this:


Or this:


If the parents share equal amounts of time with the children, they will have “equal residential responsibility” (in North Dakota) or “joint physical custody” (in Minnesota).  Parenting schedules may look like this:


Or this: 


Once you get a parenting plan in place, and part of your Judgment, it becomes legally enforceable and both parties must follow it.  Parties always retain the right to mutually agree to modify the parenting schedule, even after it’s part of your court order, but absent both parties agreeing to change the exchange time on Fridays, for example, the parenting schedule is the law of your case. That’s why it is very important to be detail-oriented and thorough when deciding upon a schedule that will work for your family.