For families with children with parents separating, it is critical to practice different parenting schedules before a parenting agreement is entered with the court to optimize what will work best for you. Some things to know:
A court order is not necessary to have a parenting schedule in place.
Something on paper does not always translate into a workable plan in reality.
Practicing allows parents and children the opportunity to know that everyone is safe and as happy as possible under the new plan and if that is not true, corrective action can be promptly taken before anyone is hurt.
Practicing before an agreement is entered allows for flexibility and easy changes. Once the parenting judgment is entered, it can be cumbersome and expensive to change it for the first 2 years.
Clients often insist that only one plan would work. Once practicing started, they were open to more flexible plans or to an entirely different arrangement.
At the start of a divorce or parental separation, emotions are highly charged. If the family is practicing different schedules to see which may work best, everyone can feel a sense of having a voice and a choice. This will almost always be more effective and productive than the implementation of a one size fits all plan dictated by one side or another.
Absent extenuating circumstances, practicing a schedule and changing it before it becomes a court order, will encourage both parents to be engaged with the children and will limit the likelihood of parental alienation.
When parents or attorneys express opposition to a period of practicing a schedule, I often wonder what are they afraid of? Don’t be afraid! Try them on and find the one that is right for your family.