When you and your spouse or domestic partner decide to separate, your first concern will be how to best support your children. This is going to be a difficult time for them, and they deserve every effort to maintain stability during the transition. Putting together a residential schedule can give them the constancy, predictability, and routine needed to adapt to this change in their lives.
What is a Residential Schedule?
When parents separate in Washington, a residential schedule is established to indicate how much time the children spend under each parent’s roof. Residential schedules address living arrangements for the children. The goal should always be maintaining as much stability as possible for the children.
Children are surprisingly resilient and flexible, so a number of potential residential schedules may work for them. It will largely depend on the family and the goals of the parents for their children. The different arrangements can run the gamut from a 50-50 time split between both parents’ homes, to living primarily with one parent, to in some cases, having limited contact with one parent. Here are four things to consider when establishing a residential schedule for your children.
1. Children Have Age-Associated Needs
As children grow, their needs change. In general, babies and very small children need to spend more time with whichever parent is their primary caretaker. However, they also need consistent and regular time with the other parent. Younger children need consistency in their daily routine. Older children become focused on developing peer relationships and participating in extra-curricular activities with their friends. The ideal residential schedule would likely be flexible to accommodate the changing age-specific needs.
2. What Are Your Current Living Arrangements?
The living arrangements of the parents play a key role in determining how much time the kids spend at each house. How close do you and your former spouse or partner live to one another? What hours do you both work? Which parent lives closest to the children’s school(s)? What about their extra-curricular activities like Wednesday night soccer practice? Write down these considerations and discuss them with your former spouse or partner.
3. Older Children Considerations
Older children and teenagers may dislike feeling that they are “forced” into a schedule. Unless there are valid reasons to do otherwise, it can be a good idea to include them in the decision-making process. For example, if your teenage son is involved in an competitive academic program and/or extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities, it is important to consider what type of residential schedule works best for him and which parent can be more hands on at that time in his life to help monitor and support the him.
4. Conflict Has No Place in Negotiations
Some parents mistakenly believe that positioning or arguing for more time with the kids will make them the “better or chosen” caregiver. That is simply not true. In fact, supporting the children’s best interests and taking their needs into consideration may mean yielding more residential time to their other parent. If you find that you have trouble determining a residential schedule for your family and children, working with a trained mediator and skilled family law attorney can help you see things from various perspectives.
Deciding what’s best for the children when it comes to establishing a residential schedule and making the transition smoother is not always easy. At Bliss Law Group, we understand how much your children mean to you and we will provide both the legal counsel and support you need and require as you negotiate an arrangement that supports their future happiness. To schedule a consultation, call us at 253-844-4412. We’re here for you!