Should There be Overnight Visitation or Parenting Time on School Nights?
Creating a visitation schedule that works well can be tricky, especially when school schedules are involved. Finding a balance between what is feasible for both parents and what is best for the child or children can be difficult, and will certainly raise a host of questions and concerns from all involved parties. Having a regular visitation schedule that allows the children plenty of time with both parents is an important aspect of maintaining a strong sense of familial identity while respecting the boundaries set in place by the act of divorce or annulment.
Determining whether visitation should occur on school nights is a difficult choice that must take into account both parent’s schedules and concerns, as well as the resiliency of the child or children. Other factors that must be considered are distance, homework load, parental workload, and other siblings. Overall, the most important thing is that a consistent schedule is decided upon and followed, whether you decide to alternate weeks, have weekend visitation only, or block out larger sections of time during the summer. There is no one size fits all visitation schedule, and sitting down to explore options is critical.
One of the first things to consider is how far apart the custodial and non-custodial parents are. Individuals living in the same small town will have more options for visitation than those living hundreds of miles apart, and visitation schedules must reflect that. Transportation times should be considered. Will your children arrive home significantly past their bedtimes? If so, will they sleep in the car? If not, you must think about how they handle a lack of sleep and how it will affect their school performance. Visitation may have to be limited to weekends and school holidays if it will have adverse effects.
Another consideration is homework load. If your child attends a school with large homework loads, you’ll have to be careful to manage expectations regarding who enforces and helps with completion. If one parent is unwilling to take on that responsibility, it might be better to avoid visitation on school nights.
Parental workload must be worked out as well. If one parent works nights and one works days, an appropriate schedule must be compiled to ensure both are getting time with their children, and that the whole visitation period isn’t spent at work. As with any other visitation consideration, schedules must be compared. Also consider busy times of year- if one parent has an occupation with a clear cut busy season, determine whether it will influence your decisions about overnight visitation on school nights. What will help you and your co-parent avoid being overworked between children and career?
Other siblings are the other large factor in this decision. If either you or your co-parent have other children from another marriage, you must think about how visitation will affect them. Each child is different, and combining families can create tension in and of itself. Adding long road trips, varied visitation times, and school night parenting can create unnecessary and unwanted tension between children.
If you and your co-parent live nearby and both have appropriate lodgings for your children, overnight visitation during the school week might work out for you and your family. It is easier on children if they have their own space at each house, equipped with toys and clothing so packing is minimal. If you decide overnight weekday visitation will work for you, go for it, and check in with each other and your children frequently to make sure the arrangement is still working.
In many cases, overnight visitation on school nights may not work out. This is absolutely fine. Whatever is best for your children should be your concern, and some kids may not do well with a back and forth situation during the school week. On the other hand, some kids may do better when both parents are involved during the school week. In these cases, alternatives should be considered. Can the non-custodial parent drop by for dinner and playtime a few times each week? If you’re managing a long distance parental relationship, would Skype chats work for your family in the middle of the week? These tactics are much less invasive and disruptive than a full overnight stay, but they can accomplish similar goals while still allowing for a normal bedtime schedule.
Flexibility and revision need to be major parts of any visitation schedule. What works for your children when they are toddlers is not likely to work when they’re school age, and what works for an elementary student may not be in a high schooler’s best interest. Any visitation schedule should be reviewed with your co-parent at least once a year to ensure it’s still working for everyone, and that it’s still what’s best for your child. Keep track of your child’s moods and coping skills, and consider what changes would help nullify any negative effects of visitation. If something is not working for you, speak out and make changes. Make sure you are extending the same grace and flexibility to your co-parent that you would want them to extend to you. If you’re willing to change plans when something comes up, they will likely be willing to extend you the same courtesy.
Overall, the ultimate goal of any visitations schedule should be creating a schedule that is best for the children. Setting aside personal issues with your co-parent is crucial in creating an environment your children will thrive in.
To learn more about divorce, establishing visitation, child support, custody, or other legal issues, contact Spodek Law Group at your convenience. Our knowledgeable staff can help create an agreement that will work for you and your children.