Day-to-day life will be different after you and your spouse separate. One of the most important considerations is the living and custody schedule of your children. In order to foster healthy development and a loving family environment, we encourage families to explore joint custody options.
Child Care Post Separation
There are three common joint custody living arrangements that allow children to remain in close contact with both parents, and cause minimal disruption to the lifestyles of the children involved in a divorce. Before we discuss the specifics of these custody arrangements, we will explore what the courts need to know and their level of involvement in custody decisions.
How are the courts involved and what information do they need?
The Ministry of the Attorney General outlines that following a separation, all couples with children must establish a Parenting Plan. This term is loosely defined, and can describe any agreement on child accommodation - from a spoken agreement decided between spouses, to a legally binding contract decided by a judge. This Parenting Plan can also be determined by parents following separation without ever consulting the court system. Couples who agree on the division of time and living arrangements do not have to go through the court system. Although this agreement does not have to be written, it is highly recommended that you document your decision. This will assist the court in enforcing the agreement and will inform potential future court decisions regarding custody and child support.
“The Applicant and the Respondent are the parents of three year old Avah Gina Julianna Scott, born September 29, 2012. The parties were able to reach an agreement prior to trial respecting time-sharing for Avah.”
- Scott v Chenier, 2015 ONSC 7866
Couples that cannot come to an agreement on the custody of their children may be required to go through mediation or set a court date to delegate custody and determine access schedules. It is important to know that the court always considers what is in the best interest of a child when coming to a decision. This process is more expensive and onerous on the parties involved, so we recommend working with your spouse to reach an agreement on your own if possible. When both parents are able to provide safe and loving environments for their children, joint custody is preferable as it has proven to foster a healthier upbringing for children. Below are the three most common joint custody arrangements that should be considered when creating a Parenting Plan.
1. Weekly Alternating
One of the most common joint custody arrangements is the weekly alternating schedule. In this arrangement, children relocate residences only once a week, and reside with each parent for a full seven days. As with all custody arrangements, it is recommended that the "hand-off time" remains consistent to ensure equally divided time and reduce risk of disputes. This custody arrangement is useful for parents who each live in range of the child’s school, however the distance of the homes to one another does not need to accommodate frequent relocation. This arrangement favours children who are somewhat older, as they must be able to live away from one parent comfortably for an entire week. This limited exchange schedule is ideal for children who struggle with change and thrive on consistency.
2. 2-2-3 Plan
Another common parenting arrangement is the 2-2-3 plan. This arrangement is an easily repeatable two-week cycle, where each parent has the children for two week days, and the parents alternate having the children for the long weekend (Friday-Sunday). The benefits of this plan are that children who are very young never go more than three days without seeing the other parent, and the days and times of hand-offs are consistent week-to-week. Parents considering this arrangement would benefit from houses located close together to accommodate frequent hand-offs, and they must pursue cordial communication to execute frequent meet-ups. Both homes, of course, should be well within range of the child’s school, and extra-curricular activities.
3. 2-2-5-5 Plan
The third commonly employed joint custody arrangement is the 2-2-5-5 plan. This parenting plan incorporates a few features of the first two arrangements. It requires that both homes be within a reasonable distance for frequent switches, and in proximity of the child’s school and extracurricular activities. It also requires strong communication between parties. This plan uniquely caters to those with unconventional work schedules. For example, overnight shifts or shifts longer than 10 hours will benefit from the five-day on/off period. This arrangement allows children to spend somewhat longer periods of time in one home, without ever going more than five days without seeing the other parent. This arrangement may be ideal for children who, as they get older, move from a frequently alternating custody schedule to a weekly alternating plan.
Thistoo assists couples in developing a separation agreement which can outline, among other things, the specific agreement you come to regarding child custody and access schedules. To get started on your personalized separation agreement, visit our website.
In Any Case . . .
At Thistoo, we believe that children deserve to grow up with the love and attention of both parents. Joint custody arrangements are a great way to support consistent and nurtured growth over the course of, and following a divorce. Among the arrangements outlined above, a few core ingredients are necessary for successful joint parenting. Parties must practice strong communication in order to effectively coordinate the children’s activities, school work and switch overs. Parties must place the children at the forefront of all decisions, respect their custody agreement, and cooperate with one another.
“In Kruger v. Kruger and Baker v. Baker, the court held that joint custody is an exceptional remedy that should only be granted in circumstances where the parties demonstrate co-operation and appropriate communication, and are willing to try a joint custodial arrangement.”
- V.K. v. T. S., 2011 ONSC 4305