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Addressing parenting time change requests in your parenting plan

If you and your co-parent are going to be sharing custody of your children, you are likely putting a parenting time schedule in place as part of your custody agreement and parenting plan. When parents commit to following a schedule, they help their children develop a routine that can make them feel more secure amid the tumult of parental divorce. Having a schedule also helps both parents plan their lives.

Sometimes, it will be necessary for you and your co-parent to "swap" your parenting time. You may have a work-related deadline or family emergency come up, for example. If communication between the two of you is still tense, requests for parenting time changes can make matters worse. That's one reason why it's best to keep these to a minimum and reserve them only for situations where they're necessary. Of course, frequent changes to the parenting plan are also upsetting to kids.

Parents can commit to minimizing changes by setting a limit for the number of times each parent can request one. This can be included in the parenting plan. The limit can be monthly, quarterly, annually or another way you choose to do it. While you're doing this, you should also designate how far in advance a parent needs to request a change. Of course, this wouldn't apply to true emergencies. However, those should be rare.

Another detail to include in your parenting plan is whether every request for a change needs to be a swap. If you can't take the kids one weekend when you're supposed to have them, does your co-parent need to give you an added two days some other time? Some parents don't require that parenting time lost due to an emergency or other scheduling issue be made up. Sometimes, requiring a swap just adds more upheaval to children's lives.

If you and your co-parent find yourselves frequently diverging from your parenting time schedule, consider whether these changes are really necessary. If they aren't, it's best for your kids not to constantly be changing the schedule.

If the schedule you put in place isn't something you can regularly commit to because of changes that have occurred in your life, you may want to rethink it. Your attorney can help you if you need to make modifications to your child custody agreement.

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