Creating a regular parent-child visitation schedule sets a family routine, even when the family lives in two different homes. Children want to know when they can see each parent and tend to do best with consistency and structure. Sometimes life happens, and a need to change the schedule may arise—for you, your ex, or your kids. Maintaining some flexibility makes occasional adjustments easier to handle and can foster a sense of teamwork between co-parents.
When you need to request a schedule change, you're going to want your ex to be cooperative. (But it's important not to go overboard, as they might grow more inflexible in return.) At the same time, you don't want to be taken advantage of if they constantly presume visits can be rescheduled. Set firm boundaries with one another when it comes to making adjustments to the child visitation schedule and everyone will benefit.
Write It Down
Put the schedule on paper. Your parenting time routine should be something you both agree with and can maintain over time. This doesn't mean that there will never be changes, but you don't want to do something completely different each week. Your kids have a right to know when they can expect to see their parents, and you should know when your children will be with you. Sticking to a consistent schedule can make the transition between your home and your ex's home easier for your children.
The following guidelines provide an example of the language you can use to set appropriate boundaries while still being supportive of your ex's relationship with your child. These guidelines should be added to your written parenting plan or communicated in writing:
- In the event that I need to reschedule, I will contact you at least 24 hours before our scheduled parent-child visitation.
- Should you need to reschedule your parenting time, I respectfully ask that you do the same.
- I will reschedule only for a true emergency or a mandatory work-related conflict.
- After communicating with you about the change, I will tell our child myself about my need to reschedule our visit.
- Maintaining a regular parent-child visitation schedule is important to me, and I will not abuse it by rescheduling for frivolous reasons.
If conversations aren't working, DivorceMag recommends trying a bartering system with a kind of "I'll trade you this for that.” Give your ex a "credit" that you put in writing for the time slot they're changing in exchange for a time they may want from you in the future. Then let your ex hold onto these visitation credits and cash them in later. "Most importantly, practice what you preach. Be flexible when asked to redeem these credits. This approach helps the parent who makes the sacrifice feel as though he or she is getting something in return," recommends DivorceMag.<br/>
Consider creating a set of guidelines you can both support. You may find, too, that expressing what you feel committed to—by beginning sentences with "I"—diffuses tension with your ex. In addition, make sure you stick to the rules, which means healthily communicating with your ex in a timely manner whenever you need to adjust the parent-child visitation schedule for any reason.
Co-parenting can be a positive experience if you both focus on the best interests of your children rather than your personal grievances. Supporting each other as you raise the children you share strengthens the family unit and provides a positive environment for your children to grow in, helping them feel secure in their family despite the parental split.