An every-other-weekend visitation schedule is the most popular basis for a parenting plan. Use these examples to find the best alternating weekend timetable for your child(ren).
Definition: "Every other weekend" meaning
Every other weekend is a visitation calendar where the children mainly see one parent on weekdays (typically the mother) and see the other parent (usually the father) on alternate weekends.
Generally, the arrangement is interpreted as meaning this:
- The children (or child) live with their Mum the majority of the time.
- Dad collects the children after school on a Friday and has them for the weekend (until Sunday evening or Monday morning). The weekend visit is repeated next fortnight.
- The children might also have midweek time with Dad (but spend most of their time with Mum).
- A different calendar can apply during school holidays (such as a week at a time with Dad).
But you can also have every-other-weekend schedules that provide for equal time, or where Dad is the main carer. Most parenting plans have alternate weekends because (i) it's easy to create a sensible plan using a fortnightly schedule and (ii) normally both parents are available on weekends.
These examples show possible arrangements under an every-other-weekend parenting plan. You can see how such timetables are written up in our plans and orders examples.
- Morning (9am) changeovers are illustrated but swaps can happen at other times (e.g. 3pm or 5pm).
- All changeovers are timed to happen in school hours (so no travel between homes is normally required).
- While limited contact options are shown first, shared care is generally preferable.
The minimal contact visitation schedule may be appropriate where parents are separated by a long distance and travel is difficult. The children's contact time with Dad is limited to once every other weekend (with a gap of 11+ days between visits). A long gap between visits is detrimental to child development outcomes (Gould).
The midweek visit schedule breaks up the fortnight by including a visit with Dad during the week. The calendar still includes a regular gap of almost a week between visits (from one midweek visit to the next). Such a gap is long enough for significant childhood events to come and pass without any involvement by the parent.
The weekend bookends visitation timetable avoids long gaps between visits. For both parents, an overnight stay is scheduled on the Thursday before, and the Monday after, the other parent's weekend. The children spend no more than 3 nights away from either parent.
The mixed days calendar is an option for a father with 6 days/nights care each fortnight. It extends the weekend bookend schedule by adding an extra visit on a spare Tuesday or Wednesday. Children have frequent contact with both parents. However, the calendar is inconsistent in terms of which nights the children stay with a given parent.
The fixed midweek schedule can be used where the father has 6 nights care per fortnight. Tuesday to Thursday nights are fixed, typically with Dad taking Wednesday. The kids have another night with Dad on the Monday following Mum's weekend. The plan offers consistency and frequent contact.
Alternating blocks is an equal-time shared care plan. Children spend alternating blocks of 2-3 days with each parent. The blocks are 3 days for the weekend and 2 days during the week. The plan is predictable for children and avoids long gaps between visits. Parents need to cooperate because care is not fixed by the day of the week.
Every 3rd weekend is a neat plan for parents with a 4:3 care split. Children see their Dad every Monday and Thursday and every 3rd weekend. The timetable is balanced. Children have predictable weeks, regular changeovers, and a good amount of weekend time with each parent.
It's fair enough to be concerned about the negative effects of children moving between households. You want children to have a happy, secure and relatively stable childhood. But is disruption from changeovers an important consideration for visitation calendars?
For 3 reasons, we believe the answer is "No". If it's logistically possible to have frequent changeovers, it should be done.
- Maintaining close contact with both parents is a priority for the development of children. The cost of keeping a child in one place for days on end is that the child is missing out on personal contact with his or her other parent for days on end. That's a high price to pay for stability.
- As the example schedules show, changeovers can be timed to happen through school. During a normal week, kids in a shared care arrangement may travel no farther than other kids.
- Moving between houses is something the average child can comfortably handle. It's less of a big deal than going to school (see below).
Attending school vs seeing your Dad
Imagine that a parenting plan was proposed to a family court judge whereby a child would:
- be separated from their primary carer for 10 visits per fortnight, each visit lasting several hours
- be cared for by a person with whom the child has no significant attachment
- interact with many virtual strangers without close supervision.
In the context of a parenting timetable, such a proposal would most likely be rejected as disruptive, risky, overly complicated, and harmful to the child's emotional well-being. Parenting experts involved in family law could be jumping up and down about the mental anguish. But it just describes what happens when a child attends school.
Attending school is widely accepted as normal and just part of life. Frequent contact between a child and each parent should be viewed similarly. Moving between homes is both manageable and worthwhile. It just requires a "can do" attitude and for each parent to provide a good home environment.
The vast majority of children who lived with their mothers after their parents’ divorce disliked having so little time with their fathers. In contrast, the vast majority who have lived in shared residential parenting families say the inconvenience of living in two homes was worth it – primarily because they were able to maintain strong relationships with both parents.