How To Balance Your Child’s Time When Getting Divorced

Parents take decisions and children have to live with the consequences. The decision to divorce may be one of the hardest decisions a parent ever has to make, but the sad truth is, if handled the wrong way, it can be even worse for the children.

The good news is that handled the right way, divorce can be a manageable experience for children of any age. They may never be happy about it, but they can learn to come to terms with it, provided that they still get equal care and attention from both parents.

Here are some tips on making that happen.

Start by working out where children need to be and when   

In this context need means need and as such is non-negotiable. The most obvious example of places children need to be are school and bed. Block out these times and only these times. For the moment, ignore the issue of travel. Right now all that matters is where children need to be and when.

Then work out where parents need to be and when   

In addition to work, parents also need sleep time, plus they may need time for other matters like doctor’s appointments or other caring responsibilities, such as taking care of elderly relatives.

It may be possible, or even desirable, for children to be with them for some of these essential activities and where this is the case, make sure to take a note of this.

As before, ignore travelling time, focus purely on where parents need to be and when and if children can be there too.   

Move on to working out where and when the children have their key commitments 

In this context, key commitments means the places the children really want to be, so their most important activities. This could be anything from after-school clubs, to regular play-dates to being with grandparents. Again, ignore travelling time for now, just look at where children need to be and when.

Finally, work out where parents want to be and when. 

Parents need some downtime too, so acknowledge this and try to make it happen if at all possible.

Map out the best way to join all these dots 

In general, your order or priorities should be as listed above: children’s needs, parent’s needs, children’s wants and then, finally, parent’s wants. While you should, obviously, aim to give your children as many of their (reasonable) wants as possible and certainly do everything you can to ensure that they continue to make established commitments (unless you have reason to believe that they’d prefer to drop them anyway), the fact is that there’s no point in setting an expectation that you will do something if both parents need to be somewhere else and there is nobody to step in.   

Remember to factor in travel time and treat it as travel time 

The reason for ignoring travel time in the early stages was because the first priority was to establish where children and parents needed to be as a prerequisite to looking at the different options for getting them there.

When you actually start to look at ways to turn a set of points on a schedule into a workable routine, then it becomes important to think about the practicalities of getting from A to Z via all relevant points in between.

For the most part, in the real world, these commutes will be contact time with a parent (or other carer) but they will not, necessarily, be quality time, especially not if the trip is by car and the parent has to focus on the road.

In order to be fair to everyone, this reality should be acknowledged and factored into any discussions about how the children spend their time.

Do your best to leave blank space in everyone’s calendar

Life is going to happen and there needs to be some flexibility to cope with this. By leaving some blank space in everyone’s calendar, you give yourself room to manoeuvre when the need arises, which it almost certainly will.   

Focus on the moments rather than the minutes 

While it’s important that children spend fairly equal amounts of both contact time and quality time with both parents, they are not food items which can be split equally down the middle to give each parent an exact half.

Instead of parents worrying about making sure they get their “fair share” of their children’s time, focus on making time with the children precious so that they fully understand that, regardless of what is happening in their parent’s relationship, they are loved and valued by both the key people in their lives.    

Author Bio

Elizabeth Bilton is an accredited mediator and qualified solicitor for Midlands Dove, with a specialism in family law disputes. Elizabeth is one of only a few Mediators in the UK with an appropriate FMC accreditation to sign off on MIAMs required by the Family Court prior to an application being issued.