Parenting Schedules: How to Avoid Being Stuck with a Default or “Standard” Parenting Schedule

When parents with minor children separate either before or after a divorce action has been initiated, one of the most pressing and important items to address is a parenting schedule. If parents are unable to agree, Courts will often issue a default “Standard” parenting schedule that may remain in place throughout the pendency of a divorce action, until a hearing has been held, or even indefinitely after your divorce has been finalized. Which “Standard” parenting schedule you may be ordered to follow depends entirely on the county you are divorcing in. (A link to each local court’s standard schedules can be found under “Resources” below.) However, your family is not “one size fits all.” It is highly likely that a Court’s “Standard” schedule is entirely impractical for your family. The only way to avoid the Court deciding a schedule for your family is to agree upon a schedule with your spouse – either on your own, or with the help of an experienced family law attorney, mediator, parenting coach, or co-parenting counselor.

Flexibility with any parenting schedule is always encouraged, ensuring that a parenting schedule does not negatively limit the children’s opportunities and experiences. For example, a child should not have to miss out on a cousin’s birthday party on Parent A’s side of the family, just because it is Parent B’s time. Parents are free to modify the parenting schedule as needed, so long as they both agree (which should be properly documented). However, if you find that schedule modifications are causing more harm than good because of parental conflict, parents should keep to the schedule as written, until co-parenting communication has improved to allow flexibility. Overall, the best parenting plan is the one that fosters a healthy relationship between the children and both parents and minimizes the conflict your children are exposed to. An experienced family law attorney can help you come up with a schedule that works best for your family.

Factors to consider while preparing a parenting schedule:

  • The amount of time your children have historically spent with each parent.
  • Work and school schedules: Parents should maximize the amount of quality time they will be able to spend with the children, rather than focusing on the number of hours they have “on paper”.
  • How many exchanges per week is practicable, keeping in mind the level of difficulty in keeping items with the child (clothes, homework, sports equipment, etc.)
  • Parents’ proximity to children’s school/daycares.
  • How much time is acceptable for children to spend in the car each day.
  • How many consecutive days a child can emotionally cope with being away from each parent.
  • Parents’ availability to take children to school, daycare, appointments, or extracurricular activities.
  • Whether exchanges should be done in person (allowing kids to transport all of their items more easily between homes), or naturally through school/daycare (Parent A drops the child off at school, and Parent B’s time begins when they pick the child up from school). In high-conflict situations, in-person exchanges should be limited to avoid the children’s exposure to conflict.
  • Exchange locations and transportation responsibilities
  • Whether a child’s school bus can pick up and drop off from two homes
  • Parameters for phone/video calls: whether communication between the child and the parent they are not with should be (a) unrestricted and “reasonable” or (b) establish designated scheduled times for calls.



  1. Sample parenting schedules:
  2. Local Court’s “Standard” Parenting Schedules:

What Is “Nesting,” and Will It Work For My Family In Transition?

Nesting is a transitional arrangement for parents to consider when starting the separation/divorce process. Nesting means that your children remain in the marital residence, and the parents take turns being in the home with the children and acting as the “on-duty” parent. The parents follow a specific parenting schedule outlining when each parent will be in the home with the children. Nesting requires that each parent has another place to stay when it is not their parenting time, such as a family or friend’s home, or a second residence. While parents may find the concept of moving back and forth cumbersome, it does allow parents to experience firsthand what the children are expected to start doing once the nesting arrangement ends.

The nesting process can be done for as long as it is feasible and makes sense for your family. Even if this arrangement only makes sense for a short period of time, it can still be valuable in helping your children with the initial shock and confusion of their parents separating. How long the nesting arrangement lasts may depend on whether one parent is keeping the home, and how long it will take the other parent to obtain a new residence.

An attorney can help you prepare a detailed, thoughtful nesting agreement that will allow you and your spouse to start the separation process on your own terms. This can be especially helpful if the parents are not ready to legally initiate a divorce or dissolution action. Certain topics that should be discussed and agreed upon before implementing a nesting arrangement include:

  • Specific parenting schedule
  • Where the other parent will be when it is not their parenting time
  • How the household bills will be divided and paid
  • Duties related to maintenance of the home during each parent’s time (groceries, cleaning, etc.)
  • Whether the parents want to allow for times when both parties may be at the home together (weekly dinner, family meetings, birthday parties, etc.)
  • Whether dating will be permitted during a parent’s parenting time
  • How long the nesting arrangement will last. This may depend on whether one party is retaining the home, whether a refinance is required, or if the parties decide to sell.

1. The Parent’s Guide to Birdnesting: A Child-Centered Solution to Co-Parenting During Separation and Divorce, by Ann Gold Buscho, PH.D.
2. “Are You Getting a Divorce and Thinking About Nesting?” by Susan Pease Gadoua L.C.S.W.