Creative Options for Parents to Develop Child Visitation Schedules

Choosing a child visitation schedule that works for you, your children, and your ex is one of the most important decisions you'll make as a single parent. Sure, you can try the ever-popular "alternating weekend" option, but it may not be the best choice for your particular needs.

Whether you're drafting an initial parenting plan, or you're trying to make sense of the schedule presented to you by the court, the sample calendars displayed here will help you better understand your kids' visitation schedule options.


Alternating Weekends Routine

Alternating weekends calendar
Consider alternating weekends. J. Wolf

With this child visitation schedule, the kids reside with the custodial parent and spend alternating weekends with the non-custodial parent. In the example shown here, weekend visits begin at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and end at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

This is probably the most popular child visitation schedule, especially for newly separated parents. It's often a good option for situations in which the non-custodial parent works a typical 9 to 5 Monday through Friday schedule. But it's not your only option! 


Weeknight Plus Weekend

Parenting time schedule with a midweek visit
Consider including a midweek visit in your parenting time schedule. J. Wolf

When families live near one another, it's possible to spend just an evening together. In this scenario, in addition to alternating weekends, the children spend one evening per week with the non-custodial parent.

For example, the children visit with the non-custodial parent every Wednesday night from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., and again on alternating weekends from 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

Another version of this approach has the children coming to the non-custodial parent right after school, giving that parent the opportunity to help with homework or attend after-school activities.


Extending Weekends Through Monday

Alternating extended weekends parenting time calendar
Reduce Sunday night stress with extended weekend visits. J. Wolf

If the custodial parent travels for work or other reasons, it can be tough to be home at 6:00 every Sunday evening. A good way to manage this difficulty is to extend the children's stay through Monday.

This sample child visitation schedule resembles the alternating weekend plan but extends through Monday.

In this case, alternating weekend visits would begin at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and end at 6:00 p.m. on Monday. Another option is simply to have the children stay through Sunday night and head to school the following morning.


Make it a Midweek Overnight

Extended 1st, 3rd, and alternating 5th weekend with a midweek overnight.
Midweek overnights can be a fun addition to your parenting time scheudle. J. Wolf

With this routine, the children visit every other weekend, along with one mid-week overnight. As you can see from the calendar, this schedule allows the children to enjoy significant chunks of parenting time with both parents.

Of course, a schedule like this can get tricky when children have late afternoon or evening obligations. Parents must share not only schedule information but also directions for drop-offs and pickups, and contact information in case of unexpected delays.


A Wider Range of Visitation Options

father and son looking at cell phone

 Oliver Rossi/Getty Images

Not every parent works Monday through Friday. And not every parent works 9 to 5. When parents' schedules are unusual, visitation schedules may need to reflect what's possible.

In some cases, parents can cover for one another's work schedules by choosing a more flexible approach to visitation. For example, children might live with custodial parent Friday through Monday, and stay with the non-custodial parent Tuesday through Thursday.

What if the non-custodial parent works the swing shift? In that case, the swing shift parent might be responsible for picking up kids after school each day, helping with homework, handling carpools, and providing dinner. Then the non-custodial parent might deliver the kids to the custodial parent's home.

The possibilities for child visitation are as flexible as the parents who make them up. The key, of course, is that both parents must be willing and able to arrive on time and provide the support their children need.

By Jennifer Wolf
Jennifer Wolf is a PCI Certified Parent Coach and a strong advocate for single moms and dads.