Divorce is never easy, but it gets more complicated when you have children. Navigating the complexities of coparenting can add more stress to one of the most difficult events in a person’s life.
The custody arrangement you make can be based on the specific needs of you and your family, custody laws, and even court decisions. For many families, a 50/50 custody agreement is the most desirable so that both parents have equal time with their children.
If an equal division of child custody is your plan, then consider a 3-3-4-4 schedule. To unpack the specifics, keep reading below.
Benefits of a 50/50 Custody Agreement
When it comes to giving parents equal time with their children, there are many factors to take into account. Make sure you consider the implications of work schedules, frequent communication, and the proximity of parents’ living situations. Depending on your unique agreement, the type of arrangement you need may change over time.
Sharing time equally between parents and households is a great way to help your children have consistency. It means they get to see both parents and have a predictable schedule that they can count on. During times of upheaval, that can help your children cope with your separated divorce.
In fact, research shows that kids who spend quality time with both parents following a divorce are better off. They tend to have less stress, which can cause health issues, as well as are better developed and have a better sense of security.
Of course, there are barriers to 50/50 shared custody that may be unavoidable. If both parents do not live close to one another, then a mid-week hand-off is likely out of the question. Even alternating weeks may not be possible if your children’s school is too far away for one parent to get to during the week.
In addition, frequent hand-off and exchanges may be required, which may not be a healthy decision if there are lingering tensions. Mid-week exchanges and good communication about school, extra-curricular activities, and other commitments will be necessary.
How Does the 3-3-4-4 Schedule Work?
If you’ve decided that equal custody is the best way forward for your family, then the 3-3-4-4 schedule is a great option.
At its most basic, one parent will have the children for three days, then the other parent will have them for three days. After the three days, the first parent will then have the next four days before exchanging again with the second parent for four days.
While that may sound complicated, it ends up working out much more smoothly than one would think. For most families, the first decision that needs to be made is whether or not one parent will always have weekends or if weekends will be split.
For a more equitable division, it’s advisable to make sure both families have time during weekends to spend with their kids. Otherwise, the allotted time a parent has with the kids is spent at school and other activities.
To get started creating a 3-3-4-4 schedule, start with deciding which parent’s days fall first. If it’s Parent A, they can start their three days on Sunday (for example). They’ll get the children Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. At the prearranged exchange time, Parent A will hand the kids off to Parent B for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
At that point, each parent will have had their three days with the kids. On Saturday, Parent B will hand the kids off to Parent A for the next four days: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Then, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will be Parent B’s four days.
The only variation will be every other Saturday. This allows parents to plan ahead for schedules and know when their set days will be from week to week.
The benefit of the 3-3-4-4 schedule is that your child or children’s school can stay consistent, as well as requires the involvement of both parents. The schedule is predictable and consistent, which can help with transitions.
The start date for the 3-3-4-4 schedule can be any day of the week that works. If parents have non-traditional schedules (such as working weekends), then it may not make sense to start the schedule on Sunday.
In addition, if both parents don’t live close to one another and your children’s school, then a 3-3-4-4 schedule may not be the best fit.
You’ll also need to be a strong communicator with your co-parent. You need to be on the same page for drop-off and pick-up times and locations. This is especially true if exchanges will take place after school or following extracurricular activities.
Good communication is also necessary about school assignments, sports schedules, sleepovers with friends, or grades. Having a plan for how to exchange information, communicate, and be on the same page is vital.
It might be worth investing in a custody app to help make communication easier for all parties involved. Not only can it help with communication, but can be a great way to compile information in one place for future reference.
One of the downfalls of a 3-4-4-3 schedule is that it does not take holidays and school breaks into account. For the most part, whichever parent has the children on a day when there is also a holiday will get to celebrate with them.
This can seem unequal and unfair to many parents. For example, one parent may never get to spend Thanksgiving with your kids, since the holiday always falls on a Thursday. The other parent may never get to celebrate Easter as a family.
You should have a plan in place for how you will deal with these important holidays. There are also court decisions that need to be taken into account, as well as travel arrangements for vacations or visiting family out of town.
Regardless, there will need to be a certain amount of flexibility and understanding. If you’re not willing to be flexible with the 3-3-4-4 schedule, then another arrangement may be better.
3-3-4-4 Schedule Variations
Your family’s needs will be unique, depending on your jobs, location, and situation. Your custody arrangement doesn’t have to be exactly what we’ve laid out here. The goal is to have your children spend equal time with both parents throughout the week, but how that looks can vary.
It will also depend on what days and times you end up exchanging custody. This can also play a role in the amount of time kids spend with both parents, so your schedule may shift to accommodate schedules.
If your exchange times are different from week to week, to accommodate a parent’s work schedule, for example, it may work best to have a 4-3-3-4 schedule.
For the first week, perhaps Parent A gets custody at 3 pm on Saturday. They have the children until 9 am Wednesday, at which point Parent B takes over. Parent B would have the children through Sunday at 3 pm.
At 3 pm on Sunday, the parents exchange custody until 3 pm on Wednesday, when Parent B takes over again until the 3 pm exchange on Sunday.
While not exactly three or four full days, the hours each parent spends with their children are equal.
If you always want to have a set weekend with your children, then a 3-4-4-3 schedule may help to keep that time set apart and special. In this arrangement, weekend exchanges would always be set (for example, Saturday night).
The hand-off during the week would change, however. An example schedule is that Parent A would always have custody on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. Parent B would always have your child or children on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The day in flux would be Wednesday, which would alternate between parents every other week.
This leave weekends set, which can allow for time spent on more fun activities together. During the week, when many kids are in school, the pick up day can alternate between Wednesday and Thursday.
You can also switch the order and have the four days fall first in the custody arrangement. Parent A would have the children for 4 days, from Sunday through Wednesday. Parent B would then have custody for 4 days: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Parent A then has three days with the kids, from Monday to Wednesday. Parent B then has Thursday through Saturday. The exchange days would still be every Wednesday and every other Sunday.
Most parents want time on the weekends with their children outside of school hours and commitments. In that case, it’s important to plan your schedule in such a way that both parents have time on the weekends for activities and time together.
When you decide to split the time on weekends will depend on your preferences and what works for your family.
3rd Party Time
As kids get older, they can spend more and more time in school, at sports and extracurricular activities, or even with friends. Depending on the night of the week you have custody, that could mean you spend more time chauffering your kids to sports practice, music lessons, or birthday parties.
This can start to encroach on your time with your kids. It can be helpful to account for 3rd party time, or time when you kids are with neither parent. Calculating this time can help determine who each parent can get equal time with your children.
Adjustments can be made, perhaps a later pick up time, to allow both parents to enjoy time together with your kids outside of school and pre-arranged activities.
Other 50/50 Custody Agreement Options
There are many other possibilities to have equal custody of your children if the 3-3-4-4 schedule isn’t for you. Remember, though, that equal time with your children still requires that parents live close to one another and your kids’ school, as well as good communication.
Sharing custody every other week is the most straightforward option of equal custory. Custody exchanges can take place every Friday night or Saturda morning. That gives each parent an entire weekend together with your kids.
This schedule allows children to plan for a whole week at a time at one parent’s home and not worry about a mid-week switch.
Alternating Week with Mid-Week Visit or Overnight
While alternating weeks is consistent, it can feel like a long stretch to go a week at a time without seeing your children. This can be address by a mid-week whichever parent does not have custody that week. It can be as simple as a dinner together or time working on homework.
You can also add in a mid-week overnight with the opposite parent. Just make sure that the night in question doesn’t not have other commitments such as music lessons or activities that will reduce the amount of time spent together.
The beauty of a 2-2-3 schedule is that each parents gets a long, 3-day weekend together with your children. This will alternate, so each parent will be able to count and plan on time outside of school commitments and schedules to spend together.
A 2-2-5-5 schedule allows for longer stretches of time together before an exchange occurs. For many parents, when 3 or 4 days go too quickly, a longer amount of time is needed.
This schedule works similarly to a 3-3-4-4 in which Parent A has two days, Parent B has 2 days, then Parent A has 5 days and Parent B has 5 days. This does create a bit more fluxuation of days, so it’s important to use a calendar to make sure everyone knows who has custody for which days.
Sharing Custody: How to choose?
When it comes time for you and your family to settle on a custody arrangement, take some time to weigh your options. Having a consistent and predictable schedule can work wonders as you help your children understand and accept your divorce.
While a 3-3-4-4 schedule is a great option, make sure everyone understands what it will involve. And in order to help you and your co-parent navigate a new arrangement, make sure you contact us to see how the 2houses App can make your transition easier and more manageable.