For some parents, not considering everything else going on with school openings right now, this school year marks a big transition. When children graduate from elementary school to middle school, or middle school to high school, their schedules change and their routines shift. For some kids, the move up in school levels means potential for more after-school activities.

You might find, as a result, that the parenting plan you’re locked into isn’t the best for your kids’ needs. Obviously, when you divorce, you have to settle on a parenting plan, and a lot of couples arrive at the standard parenting plan that the Texas Family Code provides as a default. In a lot of cases, that means that Mom has the kids Monday through Thursday mornings, and Dad has them Thursday evening through Friday morning and first, third, and fifth weekends of the month.

If Dad lives farther from school than Mom, that could cause some hiccups in the kids’ schedule that might make a challenging transition even more challenging. There are some workarounds, though, in the form of alternative parenting plans.

One innovative plan, the 5-5-2-2, is designed so each parent gets the kids for a five-day and a two-day block within a two-week period. The five-day block includes a weekend, and if it’s done right, it can be set up so that the children are with the same parent on most days of the school week.

For example, let’s say Dad has the first five-day block, from Friday evening to Wednesday evening. Then Mom gets them for five days through Monday morning school dropoff. Dad gets them Monday through Wednesday, and then Mom gets them Wednesday through Friday to close out the cycle. With the exception of Monday morning drop-offs, the school week is consistent — Dad gets them to school every Tuesday and Wednesday, and Mom gets them to school every Thursday and Friday.

This can be helpful if there’s a weekly event, like a Wednesday night meeting, where it’s better for the child to be at one parent’s house over the other. It also keeps kids with one parent for roughly half the week, which might provide better routines and orientation for some families.

There’s also a week on-week off routine in which kids move from one parent’s house to the other every seven days. That can help kids who want to eliminate as much disruption as possible. There’s no ping-ponging back and forth between houses during the week – it’s usually a Sunday night drop-off.

In some cases, parents are simply best served by being flexible and keeping in communication with each other. The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that parenting can be unpredictable, and it can be helpful for parents to be flexible in the interest of what’s best for the children. Sometimes, it might be for a single event or a week where changing the normal parenting plan would be beneficial. But if your child makes it onto a sports team or joins school band, it might serve everyone to change the parenting plan.

The easy way to do it is simply for both parents to agree to it and make sure the new days are clearly communicated. However, if there’s a need to make it more permanent, and you want the decree to default to in case you can’t agree with your ex on scheduling, then you need a modification. While they can be routine and fairly simple, they can require more time and energy from your lawyer — especially if your ex doesn’t agree that the change is for the best.

If you think you’d benefit from an alternative parenting plan, the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance would be happy to review your situation with you and work with you on how you might best proceed. While the two alternative plans we suggested are common ones, there are others out there that some parents have used to great success — and you might have an idea for a schedule that would work for you, your kids, and your ex.