Custody Schedules in California—Setting the Right Schedule

Parents in California are often so worried about “getting” custody that they don’t focus enough on the details regarding parenting time. The details of a custody schedule will play a huge role in the lives of the parents and children going forward, so it is crucial to give careful consideration to the process of developing that schedule. Working with an attorney who is experienced in this process and who is willing to take the time to help you iron out the details can make a tremendous difference in your future as a parent.

With over 300 years of collective experience helping parents obtain the right parenting schedules, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke has seen a wide range of custody schedules built to fit the specific needs of families in different circumstances. Here we explain some of the basics about establishing a custody schedule and give some examples of custody schedules that you can consider as you work to develop your own plan.

Parenting Plans in California

Generally, parenting plans in California address both legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions about a child’s upbringing, so a custody schedule involves physical custody—where the child lives. Parents can share both types of custody or one parent may be granted sole custody. When one parent has sole physical custody, the court will establish an order regarding visitation for the other parent. This could be:

  • Scheduled visitation: The court order establishes dates and times that the child will be with each parent. Scheduled visitation can address holidays, vacations, and special occasions such as birthdays.
  • Open-ended visitation: The court order does not specify a schedule for visitation but allows parents to work this out on their own.
  • Supervised visitation: When the court has concerns about a child’s safety while with the noncustodial parent, the court order might specify the terms for supervising visits with that parent.
  • No visitation: If the court finds that even supervised visitation would put the child at an undue risk of physical or emotional harm, then the order will not allow any parenting time to the noncustodial parent.

So, a custody schedule is needed both in situations where parents share physical custody and in situations where one parent has sole physical custody and the other has parenting time.

Joint Custody Schedules

Some of the most common schedules for parents sharing physical custody are the “alternating weeks” schedule and the “3-4-4-3” schedule. As the names imply, the alternating weeks schedule has a child spending 7 days in one parent’s home and then switching to the other parent’s home for the next 7 days, while the 3-4-4-3 schedule puts a child with one parent for 3 days one week and 4 days the next.

Of course, parents are free to develop their own schedules, and just because parents have joint physical custody does not mean that they each need to have the child exactly 50% of the time. If one parent works a traditional weekday schedule while the other works 12 hour shifts on weekends, for instance, it might work best for the child to be with one parent from Friday afternoon to Monday morning while the other parent takes the child during the remainder of the week. In a joint custody arrangement, the child is with each parent at least 30% of the time, but parents can get creative about how they want to arrange the time. If the schedule provides a safe and secure atmosphere for the child, the court is likely to approve it.

Sole Custody Schedules

Even when the court order does not set a schedule for visitation, it is good for parents to establish a schedule on their own so that both parents and children can feel confident that they will enjoy parenting time on a regular basis. One traditional visitation that still works well for many families is for the child to be with the noncustodial parent one day during the week and every other weekend. While this works well for parents with traditional work schedules and children who are in school or daycare, it is not always the most advantageous in other situations.

For a young child and parents with unpredictable work schedules, it might work to have a standing arrangement that puts the child with the noncustodial parent on that parent’s first day off each week, whenever that happens to fall. It is important to consider childcare arrangements, parents’ work schedules, the child’s schedule, and a host of other factors when setting a parenting plan.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Can Help You Arrangement a Beneficial Custody Schedule

While it is particularly important to establish a workable and advantageous custody schedule when that schedule will become part of the court order, it is helpful to have a schedule that sets expectations in every situation, even when the court allows parents to be flexible. The experienced team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC can work with you to consider all the details that will affect your parenting plan and help you develop the right schedule for your needs and the needs of your child. Contact us today to learn more about the ways we can assist with custody and other family law matters.

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