August 13, 2019

Back-To-School: Parenting Plans for the School Year

Mother and son packing backpack

As July turns to August, the dog days of summer are coming to an end. Across the state, Wisconsin families are preparing for the beginning of another school year. For newly-divorced parents, this school year may be the first since the divorce. For divorced parents with existing shared placement plans, returning to the school year can be stressful; summer is usually when one parent moves,[1] or when other circumstances change. Child placement may have to adapt to reflect these changes. The process of creating a parenting plan through the initial divorce or modifying an existing parenting plan can be very different based on whether the parents can come to an agreement. In both situations, it is advantageous to each divorced parent to come to a mutually-beneficial compromise with their former spouse. Under these circumstances, each parent has more control over their parenting plan. A compromise may come organically through discussions with your former spouse, or through court-ordered mediation.[2] If the parties are successful, they may stipulate to the agreed-upon parenting plan. Often, the court will honor this plan.

If the parents cannot agree on legal custody[3] and physical placement of the child(ren), the court must appoint a guardian ad litem[4] to determine the best interests of each child. It is important that parents understand the role of the guardian ad litem is to determine the best interest of the child only. They are not assigned to a case for the benefit of one parent or another.  Regardless of whether the parents agree, each parent will be required to create a parenting plan at some point in the process. The court will require parents who cannot agree to file a Proposed Parenting Plan with the court within 60 days of their failed mediation. Parents who reach an agreement without the court’s involvement may modify this parenting plan at any time without returning to court. It is in the best interest of both parties to relay that information to the Court. Further, both need to understand that any change in the number of overnights could potentially affect the child support calculation. Regardless of how an agreement is reached, whether mutually or ordered by the Court, parents should be aware that the Court is not likely to change the order for two years.  If that two-year waiting period has not expired, a parent requesting a change of placement has to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstance and that the proposed change is in the best interest of the child. Wisconsin courts have always placed a priority on maximizing placement with both parents when deemed appropriate.

Here are some commonly used placement schedules:

2-2-3

This schedule is used most for 50/50 placement between two parents that live geographically close. Studies suggest it is best for the development of younger school-age children to see each parent during the week. For this schedule, many parents choose a 2-2-3 Schedule. This schedule runs in two-week cycles and is very popular with parents of younger children.

In a 2-2-3 schedule, Parent 1 will have placement for 2 days: from Monday after-school until Wednesday after-school. Parent 2 will then have placement for 2 days: from Wednesday after-school to Friday after-school. Parent 1 will then have 3 days of placement over the weekend. During the second week, Parent 2 will have placement during the days that Parent 1 had placement the previous week.

Alternating Weeks

Depending on the geographic distance between parents, most do well with an alternating weeks schedule. Parent 1 will have the children after school on Friday until the following Friday after school when Parent 2 will take placement. Usually, the receiving parent will come to pick up the kids, unless busing is arranged. This arrangement is less likely to be granted by the Court when there are younger children because it is better for parents and children to have meaningful contact more often.

Weekend-Weekday

Some parents find that a weekend-weekday schedule works best for the child(ren). In this schedule, Parent 1 has the child(ren) during the week and Parent 2 will have the child(ren) on the weekend. During summer, this schedule may invert, where Parent 1 will then have the child(ren) during the weekend and Parent 2 will have the weekdays.

Summer Schedule

For parents that live far apart, it is sometimes best for one parent to have the child(ren) for the entire summer. The other parent will have placement of the child(ren) for the school year. Quite often the parent without placement during the school year will have specific holidays and dedicated vacation time.

Custom Parenting Plans

Parents who agree on placement have much more freedom to change their parenting plans or to create small adaptions to account for nuances like sporting events, math league tournaments, or marching band trips.

Parents who work together also have much more flexibility to create customized and creative parenting plans. Some ideas:

  • The 2-Weeks Schedule: Parents alternate two weeks with Parent 1 and two weeks with Parent 2
  • Every 3rd Week: Every third week with Parent 2
  • Alternating 2 Days: 2 days with Parent 1 then 2 days with Parent 2
  • Every 3rd Day: Parent 1 has placement every 3rd day.
  • 4-3 Schedule: Parent 1 has 4 days of placement, Parent 2 has placement for 3 days

Holidays

Every successful parenting plan should make accommodations for birthdays and holidays. Parents who pre-plan these events leave less room for conflict. Regardless of whether you and your former spouse can agree, the skilled and compassionate team of GTW attorneys are here to help you provide stability and success for your child(ren).

Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs Lawyers Can Help

Our dedicated attorneys have decades of experience in family law. If you’re in need of additional information about parenting plans, do not hesitate to give us a call today!

 

[1] Moves that would take the child(ren) 100+ miles away from the other parent require a different legal process under Wis. Stat. § 767.481.

[2] Mediation is a structured set of assisted negotiations between the parties.

[3] “The right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning the child.” Wis. Stat. § 767.001(2)(a)

[4] An attorney to represent the minor child(ren).