Every child custody arrangement is unique, based on the distance between parents, the needs of the children, and how logistics need to play out. In the majority of arrangements, children live primarily in one home and go to visit or are visited by one of their parents.
Every-other-weekend visitation is the most common agreement but some parents also choose to include a mid-week evening visit as well. This creates a way for kids to see both parents every week. It also allows for each parent to be part of their school week. If your family has agreed on a mid-week visitation, your children are likely to benefit a great deal from this balance of time between both parents.
Arranging for this weeknight and cooperating with a difficult co-parent can be challenging. With a few tips, you may be able to work with your ex and children to not only secure your time but also spend it bonding enjoyably.
Start With an Agreeable Custody Order
The first step for any co-parenting custody cooperation is an agreeable custody and parenting time order. This is because what is mandated on paper is the only thing that can be enforced by the courts. No matter what kind of friendly handshake-agreement you and your co-parent work out along the way, it’s important to have a strong legal starting place.
The right legal parenting time agreement ensures that misunderstandings, major lifestyle changes, and even family tragedies cannot get in the way of fair shared time between parents and agreeable shared legal custody.
Make sure to start with an agreement that splits the week evenly in a way that currently works for both of you. While you can adjust as-needed week to week, you can also get the order updated if your lives or the lives of your children change significantly in the future.
Even in the case of fighting over parenting time, a well-written agreement in plain language about the nights and days shared can be both a defense and a support to lean on.
Don’t Mandate a Day of the Week
Kids’ schedules change a lot. From one semester to the next, you have no way of knowing what night scouts, soccer, drama, or music lessons might occupy by necessity. The last thing you want is for your parenting time night to stop your child from doing something they love. Not to mention that your schedule can change as well. A promotion or a new job might result in the weeknight you argued for at first no longer being available.
The best solution is to remain flexible and ask simply for one night during the week. This gives you a lot more wiggle room for prior engagements, allowing both you and your child to see each other when it’s best, not when the schedule mandates.
Take Advantage of Opportunities
Being flexible allows you to take opportunities to be an awesome and supportive parent. Sometimes your ex needs the night off for work, personal, or medical reasons. You can take a longer evening than usual with your child instead of calling a babysitter. Alternately, if you’ve been cool about scheduling, you might get a bonus night as a fill-in babysitter and your traditional evening having dinner or doing something fun with your child.
Another form of opportunity is the long weekend. When your child gets Friday off from school, ask for Thursday night and start a three-day camping trip. Maybe just plan a fun movie marathon to lie around the house together like peas in a pod. Always be ready to work with your former spouse to create best-case arrangements for your weeknight parenting time.
Plan What You’re Doing Together
Don’t just pick up your child, grab takeout, and watch TV at home together. Unless, of course, that’s genuinely what they want to do and are excited about it. Go out of your way to plan fun activities. Get your child involved in the planning for your one weekday night together. Take them out to dinner and practice fine dining manners. Take them out to mini-golf and practice not hitting the wind-mill arms. You can even join an activity together like getting involved as their scouts leader or taking parent-child dance lessons. Build a tradition where they get to pick an activity from some usual favorites.
As they get older, weekday nights are the perfect time to reward your teenage children with driving lessons. Or, give them a budget and challenge them to come up with fun things to do with weeknight time.
Remember School-Night Parenting Obligations
Finally, no matter how much fun you have together and how much you value your activities, don’t forget that it’s still a weeknight and your child will have school the next day. Including homework to turn in. Always take the time near the beginning of your evening together to ask how things are going at school. Remember the names of their friends and teachers. Try to keep up with the admittedly convoluted social life of the modern young person.
Ask about how lessons are going and keep up with their school struggles. If you really want to impress your ex, make sure homework is always done by the time they return home.
Weeknight parenting time isn’t the most common practice, but it can become a valuable part of your child’s development. Plan for your weeknights and be flexible about the exact night each semester. You can significantly increase the amount of time spent with your children and build great weekly traditions for them.
Knowing When to Adapt
The trickiest thing about weeknight visitation is making sure the parenting time agreement matches what is working for the family. The nights your children are free may change, how much time you spend together, and even locations may change. If your partner is making arranged weeknight visitation difficult or if you need to make a change to adapt to new circumstances, be sure to work with an experienced divorce and child custody attorney. For more information or professional advice on your custody and visitation needs, contact us today.