One of the biggest challenges for parents who get divorced, especially when the divorce is relatively still new, is coordinating schedules. The divorce decree will give parents a parenting plan, that will let them know a set schedule of days of the week, weekends of the month, and drop off and pick up times when the children are with each parent. At first glance, in the abstract, it might look manageable and might look like something that both parents can follow.
But invariably, a parent will face a work obligation or scheduling conflict that makes it necessary to change the schedule, and work out a trade with the other parent. That’s something that can potentially open the doors to confusion, arguments, and a resolution which might make one or even both parents feel that some injustice has taken place.
Divorced parents need to come up with a system that works for both of them to keep parenting time straight. The system needs to do a few different things to work ideally:
· Allow each parent to clearly see when the children have parenting time with each parent
· Allow parents to clearly communicate about negotiating changes to the schedule
· Making sure both parents sign off on a change and know the new dates and times
There are some free tools available, which parents might use in their day-to-day lives, that can serve parents well. Online calendars that can be shared by both parents can accomplish the schedule part of this; a lot of people use Google Calendar, and there is some interaction between Google’s Gmail service and Google Calendar that can help you keep the dates straight. If you use Google Calendar to keep all your other appointments straight, it’s a good idea to use Google Calendar to also keep your parenting time straight.
If you’re emailing back and forth to negotiate dates-which is preferable to texting-make sure you have a subject that identifies clearly what the thread is about. “Schedule change request for May 22, 2018” is more specific (and easier to find) that just “Requesting change.” Obviously, you want to make sure that you’re clear and direct with the request, keep your tone professional, and acknowledge confirmation from the other party.
Some courts are beginning to assign Our Family Wizard to divorcing parents who need a system to manage parenting time, and comes with some great advantages. It’s accessible online or via a smartphone app, it allows parents to see schedules, to negotiate calendar trades, and to keep track of expenses-which can be helpful for decrees in which one parent pays for medical expenses and the other parent reimburses him or her for half the cost.