The more I work with clients the more I realize that keeping the focus on the needs of the children makes the process a whole lot easier.
This is what you do. Find a blank monthly calendar, search on google (link to excel http://www.wincalendar.com/excel-calendar-template.htm word formats are also available) and use one for each child. Put each child’s schedule on it in detail. What time they get up, when they leave for school, when they get home from school, what activities they have, sports, music lessons orthodontist appointments, list everything, absolutely everything.
Once you have done this for each child, you will have a clear picture of what has to happen in any parenting arrangement to make sure the kid’s schedules are maintained.
Then consolidate all the children on to one calendar (if you can). I like excel formats for this because you can add a row to the chart any day of the week that is particularly full.
Then you do the same for each parent. When do you and your spouse leave for work and get home, are there evenings when one of you goes to school or has a standing girls night out? List everything each of you do.
Then you bring it all together. Keeping the children’s schedules as the priority, what will work? When can each parent have quality time with the children, what activities will each parent be responsible for getting the children to. How are you going to juggle everything?
Getting a schedule that works is more art than science.
Once it is clear that every Thursday both children have activities until 730 then homework and bed, that will not be the ideal evening for the parent who works in the city to have with the children. If one of the parents coaches a child’s sports team and is always with them on Tuesday and Thursday evenings that would be a natural time for the parenting time to continue until school tomorrow. Get creative!
The only caveat to all of this is that bouncing children from house to house is not the best thing. A lot depends on how old they are and how independent they are. What will work for a 12 year old may not work for a 7 year old.
I have found that this process reduces the automatic parental response “I won’t see my children every day”. While the thought is a really hard to deal with, the reality is that for most working and busy parents they only see their children for a few minutes a day. Parents who work long hours often leave before their children are out of bed and then get home just in time to put them to bed.
I remember getting on the phone with my children to say goodnight when I had to work late or was away on a business trip well before my divorce so doing the same thing for different reasons can make things feel right. Now with Skype and I-phones you can actually see your children, almost like being there.
This methodology is powerful. It will result in a rational parenting arrangement that is geared to meeting the needs of the children. This type of approach is also something that changes as the needs of the children change. School year is different than summer months and parenting schedules can be adjusted to give one parent more time if their working schedule does not allow for time during the school year. As the children get older the schedule can change again.
This approach, if managed well, will result in positive co-parenting, children that have their needs met and children who see that their parents acting in a civilized manner. This will significantly reduce the stress of the divorce for your children.