Child custody and timeshare with the children sometimes get muddled up in the minds of divorcing individuals and over-simplified into “I want 50-50.” There can however by 50-50 problems. Legally (and practically) there are three distinct things: legal custody, physical custody and the parenting plan timeshare arrangement. The timeshare arrangement is nearly always what is most important because it reflects the actual time each parent will have with the children.
An unlimited number of timeshare arrangements (and percentages) are possible. The most widely discussed timeshare percentage is 50-50. There are many ways to accomplish a 50-50 timeshare.
Potential 50-50 Problems
While equal timeshare arrangements with the children may seem desirable to one or both parents, there are often 50-50 problems. Here are some reasons why:
- Often one of the parents wants the 50-50 arrangement because they feel it should be their right to have half of the time with the children. They are motivated by their own self-interest rather than what is practical or best for the children.
- The desire for 50-50 is sometimes motivated by the aim of reducing child support. It is true that the greater the timeshare percentage of the paying parent, the less will be their guideline child support. But here also the parent is motivated by self-interest rather than what is practical or best for the children.
- Sometimes a 50-50 timeshare represents a compromise between the parents because they are unable to agree to anything else. Problematic practical realities will likely arise when the compromise is implemented.
- 50-50 arrangements often involve a lot of exchanges of the children. This may be relatively easy if the parents live close to each other, as is often the case when they are first splitting up. If one parent moves further away, it can be hard to keep up the 50-50 schedule.
- A 50-50 timeshare often implies a 50-50 split of parental duties with the children. The parents however will have different parenting skills and interests. Ignoring these in favor of a 50-50 schedule can create frustration for both parents.
- 50-50 arrangements require a lot of work by both parents. If either parent has a full-time job, their life will be very full and perhaps overwhelming. Opportunities for efficiencies such as having one parent focus on the children’s homework and the other on their extracurricular activities can be lost.
- A lot of cooperation is required between parents to make a 50-50 timeshare work. Each parent needs to be reasonably well-organized, meet their commitments and communicate effectively with the other parent. If this is lacking, 50-50 problems will develop.
- In a 50-50 arrangement, each parent has equal time and authority to discipline, influence and teach the children. This means that each parent has an equal opportunity to create very different, perhaps even contradictory, experiences for the children. That can be confusing for them and even emotionally harmful.
- The needs of the children (and the parents) will change with time. 50-50 timeshares imply a certain rigidity – that the time with each parent must be kept exactly balanced. This can constrain flexibility in meeting the real and changing needs of all concerned.
This is not to say that 50-50 problems are insurmountable nor that arrangements are inherently unworkable. Some parents can make them work very well. But before entering into such a timeshare, it’s wise to think through in detail how the arrangement will work in practice and carefully consider the 50-50 problems and challenges it may create. And as always, what will be best for the children should be the paramount consideration.
Related Posts and Pages:
Parenting Plan Custody Basics in California
Statistics show that children do much better if both parents are equally in the children’s life. Co parent counseling can address differences in parenting practices and if one parent or both are working to undermine the arrangement it won’t matter if it was an equal physical time share or not. Parents need to put the best interest of their children first and foremost and if prepared to do so, a 50/50 time share will be much better for their children than not. It of course requires both parents wanting their children in their lives and considering the children’s needs not the parents needs.
Thanks, Phil. One of the underlying points of my article is that it is possible to be an equal factor in your children’s lives without an exactly equal 50/50 timeshare. Another way of saying this is that say a 55/45 timeshare does not mean that the parent with 45 is shirking their parental responsibilities nor that they they are less a factor to the children than the parent with 55.
Assuming that we have two parents that are co-operating, are rational and acting only in the interest of the children then you might be right – that’s not my experience. Your in the perfect world. Assuming that both parents are willing and able I see that 50/50 is the ideal position for children. It gives them too parents on equal standing to move through life with. It avoids one parent bully’s there way by thinks they own the children. Far too often children are used in relationship breakdowns as commodities to negotiate a property settlement , or more child support, or worse as a weapons against the other parent. Reducing the children’s entitlement to one over another and not giving the children equal access to both parents is not in the best interest of any child. Both parents should share equally in the upbringing of children. They should be able to grow knowing that two parents are bringing them up and not – “I see dad or mum on the weekend”
Thanks, Vince. I certainly agree that ideally both parents share meaningfully and substantially in the upbringing of the children. I think some people leap to the conclusion that this can only be done with a timeshare arrangement that is exactly 50-50 and from experience I would disagree with this.