Finalizing your divorce can take a looooong time.
Did you know Californians are legally required to wait 6 months + 1 day after they file for divorce before it can even go to court? Looks like West Coast judges got tired of impulsive celebrities changing their minds.
The already grueling divorce process takes even longer for couples with children together.
No matter where you live, deciding on a parenting plan before going to court saves you weeks of headache and thousands of dollars. So while you wait a few more weeks for you ex’s lawyer to call your lawyer back, it may benefit you to start researching the 2-2-5-5 schedule for physical custody.
In this post, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about this popular custody arrangement. While it definitely will not work for everyone, there’s a reason this custody schedule is so well known.
Keeping reading to learn more about 2-2-5-5 parenting.
But first, let’s review the basics:
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a court order outlining the terms of child custody between two divorced parents. Other words for parenting plan are “custody schedule” or “visitation plan.”
Your parenting plan will cover things like
- legal custody
- physical custody
- visitation rights
- alimony and shared expenses
- family members approved for childcare
All of these decisions should be made in the best interests of the child, not just the parents’ convenience. Parents should consider how best to emotionally support their children while apart, as well as nailing down practical aspects of custody.
It’s common for parents to create several temporary parenting plans during the divorce process. However, a clearly defined parenting plan is one of the most essential parts of a finalized divorce. Don’t be afraid to take your time.
Today, we’ll dive into just one small aspect of an overall parenting plan.
Making Your Custody Schedule
Parenting plans come in as many shapes and sizes as the families who make them. There is no ultimate right or wrong custody schedule—as long as the wellbeing of the children is priority number one.
The right custody schedule is one in which everyone is safe and feels at peace with the arrangement. In some cases, it’s best for one parent to have sole physical custody of the children. The other parent may be allowed scheduled visitation rights.
But in other cases, children want to see both of their parents regularly. In shared parenting, a divorce attorney may suggest a number of different custody schedules to help you split time with your children.
You may have heard of children who spend the school year with their mother and summer vacations with their dad. Or, another popular arrangement is one week on, one week off; one week with mom, next week with dad.
But what do you do if both parents want to be as hands-on as possible? What if the children are very small and still need as much time with both parents as they can get?
Introducing the 2-2-5-5 custody schedule.
What is a 2-2-5-5 Schedule?
Here’s an easy way to remember the 2-2-5-5 schedule:
One parent gets Mondays and Tuesdays every week. The other parent gets Wednesdays and Thursdays every week.
Each parent gets to spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with the children every other week.
In other words, some weeks you’ll see your children for two weekdays. Other weeks you’ll get them for five straight days. That span of five days will always include the same weekday you always see them, plus the weekend.
That’s two consistent weekdays and alternating custody for the weekends. (So really, it’s a 2-5-5-2 schedule most of the time.)
I know what you’re thinking…
How on *earth* am I supposed to keep track of all those swaps?
Most parents plan custody exchanges around mealtimes or the end of the school day. They also make changing houses as easy as possible for their kids in a few ways:
- keeping the kids’ rooms in each house as consistent as possible between visits
- having clothes and toys at each house so kids only pack what they need for school / the day
- keeping commutes simple and sticking to consistent meal times
Let’s look at some real examples.
How 2-2-5-5 Works (in Examples)
For this 50/50 custody schedule to work, both parents need to live near each other. If the kids are in school, both parents need to live in that school district. Both parents are going to need to enjoy participating in mundane weekday tasks as well as fun weekend adventures.
Parent A is has a flexible work schedule. They live 20 minutes from the daycare their two toddlers attend.
Parent A’s custody schedule looks like this:
Monday – Pick up kids from ex’s house at 8am to drive to daycare. Make sure they have everything they will need for a few days at my house. I pick up kids from daycare and bring them home with me.
Tuesday – I have Tuesdays off and spend the day with the kids. My ex will pick up the kids from my house in the morning. Next week, I know I’m getting 5 days of custody from Friday through Tuesday.
Thursday – N/A
Friday – N/A
Saturday – N/A
Sunday – N/A
Parent B does not have a flexible work schedule and work Monday through Friday. Their house is 10 minutes away from daycare.
Parent B’s custody schedule for the same week looks like this:
Monday – Make breakfast for the toddlers and help them pack before my ex arrives to take them to daycare. My ex and I confirm that I will be spending Wednesday through Sunday with them this week.
Tuesday – N/A
Wednesday– I pick up kids from ex’s house to take to daycare today. I always take them to daycare every Wednesday and Thursday. Kids come back from daycare with me and stay at my house.
Thursday – Take kids to and from daycare, stay after and talk to their teacher.
Friday – Dinner at my mom’s house with the children after daycare.
Saturday – This weekend, I’m taking the kids to the zoo.
Sunday – Today we clean up and prepare for the week. I get the kids excited to spend 5 whole days with Parent A. I remind them we’ll be back together on Wednesday morning.
Pros of the 2-2-5-5 Custody Schedule
Assuming you can make it work, there are so many good things to say about this parenting schedule:
The children get to see both parents every single week.
With frequent custody exchanges, it’s easier for children to still feel like they’re part of both parents’ lives. This can help relieve a child’s anxiety about being abandoned by one or more parents during a divorce.
Both parents get to be fully involved with their child’s progress at school.
This custody schedule is fantastic for parents who want to be there for all the little moments. In the 2-2-5-5 schedule, each parent will always get to participate in the weekday routines at least two days a week. But they don’t have to miss out on weekends either.
We won’t sugar coat it for you though.
There are quite a few challenges with this custody schedule…
If you can’t stay organized, it won’t work.
Out of all the possible custody schedules, 2-2-5-5 definitely has the most moving parts. Although the rotating schedule may be easy enough to memorize, the whole family must be excellent at communicating. One extra appointment, one missed custody exchange appointment, and the whole week could get thrown off.
Location, location, location!
In order for this to work, both parents must live close to each other and close to the schools their children attend. It would be next to impossible to keep this type of schedule if one parent travels often for work, or if one moves out of town.
The 2-2-5-5 Schedule is Best For…
- parents who live very close to each other
- parents who can handle frequent contact and face to face exchanges with each other
- parents who want to be involved in both schoolwork and weekend activities with their kids
- parents with flexible or alternative work schedules
- very young children (infants or toddlers) who still need lots of time with each parent and are not yet in school
There’s a reason this is such a popular custody schedule in so many parenting plans. If you can make this type of arrangement work, we highly suggest you try.
This Custody Schedule Will Not Work For
- parents who have an inconvenient commute between houses
- parents who do not do well contacting each other many times a week
- parents and children with busy schedules who have a hard time keeping track of frequent exchanges
- older children who need housing stability to do well in school
- children with lots of extracurricular commitments or medical needs that may interfere with exchange times
If your children are already teenagers getting involved with teams at school, it may be best to look at other custody options. Ask them how they would feel about a 2-2-5-5 schedule and see what they say. As much as both parents may want to stay involved, it all comes down to the child’s best interest.
Also, if you honestly don’t believe you’ll be able to keep track of this type of schedule, don’t! Divorce is already one of life’s most stress-inducing events. As much as your children may want to see both you and your ex, they’ll be more excited about your co-parenting when it’s less stressful for everyone.
Before we wrap this up, there’s something else you should know…
Outliers to Consider
Let’s assume you and your former partner talk with your kids and agree on a 2-2-5-5 schedule.
Before you carve that schedule into stone, there are a few important factors to keep in mind.
Your Kids Might Get Tired of it Before You Do
Remember, this is a great option for infants and toddlers. But, as your kids grow older, they’re likely to grow more attached to their personal space. Having to pack all their gear and assignments between houses may become more trouble than it’s worth.
First Right of Refusal
Don’t become dependent on frequent custody exchanges for childcare. If your custody agreement includes first right of refusal, you need to be prepared to watch over your children for much longer than two or 5 days.
First right of refusal means you are the first person your ex-partner asks to watch the kids in the event they need to hire a babysitter. This goes for plans made in advance and last-minute emergencies.
Even if the schedule you agree on is supposed to be 2-2-5-5, there may be many weeks this isn’t the case. Stay flexible.
Remember You Got This
Coparenting after divorce can get messy and emotional, fast. But it doesn’t have to. Choose the right parenting plan for your family and get ready to roll with the punches.
The 2-2-5-5 schedule for shared custody is an excellent choice for some divorced families. It works especially well if the children are very young and both parents live close.
You may need to adapt the schedule to look more like 5-2-2-5. Or, simply think of it as each parent always getting the same two weekdays + alternating weekends.
A 2-2-5-5 parenting schedule might not work if your children need lots of stability. Older children are more likely to get upset having to pack and move houses this often.
If you do decide to try out this parenting schedule, get ready for lots of exchanges each week. Check out our post on how to handle custody exchange day smoothly.