Equal Parenting Time

Determining the appropriate parenting plan for your family can be challenging when going through the divorce process. Every parent has a different work schedule, and every child has different needs. Finding the “right” parenting schedule for your family requires an independent assessment of your circumstances to determine the best arrangement for you, the other parent, and your children. While one parent may be designated as the parent with primary parenting time, there may be some circumstances in which equal parenting time may be appropriate. Equal parenting time, which relates to physical possession of the children, is distinguishable from allocation of parental responsibilities, which relates to decision-making. Equal parenting works best when families are within close proximity to one another and are able to effectively communicate with each other.

Equal parenting time, sometimes referred to as “split custody,” “shared custody,” or “50/50” parenting time, is an arrangement in which each of the parents spends an approximately equal amount of time with the child or children. This situation can occur via a number of ways, most commonly through a “week-on-week-off” schedule or a “five-two” schedule, in which each parent has two weekdays overnight (Monday and Tuesday and the other parent has Wednesday and Thursday) with alternating weekends Friday to Monday. Equal parenting time can also occur by way of providing one parent with the majority of the time over `the school year and the other with the majority of the time over summer and breaks. In short-term situations, such as those which arise between the time a divorce is filed and when it is finalized, equal parenting time can also take the form of “nesting.” In a nesting situation, the children remain in the same residence, and the parents take turns living there.

While equal parenting time can present problems for some families, for others it is the perfect solution to a parenting time dispute, particularly when the children are older or substantially bonded with both parents. While the Appellate Courts have given mixed reviews of the arrangement, trial courts are typically reluctant, if not outright loath, to order an equal arrangement in the absence of a strong basis for doing so or an expert such as a Guardian ad Litem or evaluator recommending the same. Courts will, however, generally approve the arrangement if the parties have willingly agreed to it.

Some experts have determined that an equal parenting time arrangement has negative effects on the children and fails to provide the children with an adequate home base necessary for their healthy development. More recently, however, other experts have found that an equal parenting time arrangement can be beneficial for children because the children do not feel a divide between their parents and each of the parents assumes both a disciplinarian and affectionate role in their lives.

Each family has a unique set of circumstances and whether or not an equal parenting time arrangement is appropriate for your children will depend on a number of factors, including the role each parents have played in the children’s upbringing and caretaking, the distance between the parties residences, the ages and maturity levels of the children and the ability of the parents to cooperate with one another.

If you are exploring the issue of “shared custody,” “split custody” or equal parenting time in a divorce or parenting dispute, you should contact Kollias & Giese, P.C. to discuss the arrangement in greater detail, including implications for modifications of parenting time in the future and how child support is impacted.