Parent-Time: Keep it Simple

Divorce is hard. Figuring out how to extricate your life from your spouse’s is hard. Figuring out what to do with the kids is hard. It’s all hard.

And when things are hard, people tend not to do them. Sure, we might stick with hard stuff for a while, but, eventually, we lose energy.


Think of the last diet you were on. It was probably pretty restrictive, and you did great for the first week. Then, you started to cheat a little, eating sweets and all those things your diet tells you not to eat. Eventually, because the diet is difficult, you abandoned it.

Now, imagine if you asked the question: what would a diet look like if it were easy? (On a personal note, I experiment with diets to see how they work. I’m currently on one, and it’s by far the easiest and healthiest one I’ve ever experimented with. Ask me about it if you want some info.)

An easy diet would be designed in part to help you lose weight now, but it would also be designed to help you stick with it and maintain weight and health throughout your life. In essence, it would look entirely different than the ones you’ve been on before.


Now, let’s talk about parent-time the same way we talked about diets.

If you make parent-time difficult, you won’t do it as much. I’m sure there’s some pushback after that last sentence. You’re probably saying to yourself, “I’ll do whatever it takes to see my kids anytime, anywhere.”

I understand that sentiment, and if you are one of the 5% of people who actually follow through on that statement, you have nothing to worry about. You can have whatever parent-time arrangement under the sun and you’ll stick to it.

For the other 95% of parents who can’t sustain “I’ll do whatever it takes to see my kids anytime, anywhere,” over the long term, you have to make parent-time simple.

What does simple parent-time look like? It depends on your particular situation, but here are a few rules of thumb:

  1. If you’re doing 50/50 custody, you can’t live more than 20 miles from the other parent. (To read more about this, click here.)
  2. Fewer parent-time exchanges is better. There are a couple reasons for this. First, more parent-time exchanges increase the potential for conflict between parents. Second, kids tend to do better with fewer changes back and forth between homes. (For more on parent-time exchanges, read here.)
  3. Pick up and drop off your kids at school whenever possible. For whatever reason, it’s usually much easier to pick up and drop off kids at school as opposed to doing so at parents’ homes.
  4. Have a specific plan for who provides travel. Nothing creates more tension regarding parent-time than arguing about who has to drive where and when. We’ve found the following works well: the person picking up the child provides travel. This ensures people will be on time instead of being late to have more time with the kids.
  5. Have a plan about summer parent-time and holidays long before they happen. If you plan and communicate well with your ex about summer time and holidays like Christmas, it will seriously decrease friction and make vacations more enjoyable.

Remember: Make Parent-Time Easy

Think long and hard about what will work best before you agree to any set schedule. The easier you make parent-time, the more likely you are to exercise it. So, make it easy. You and your kids will be better for it.

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