The wellbeing of your children is always your first priority. That’s why it can be so difficult to split custody of them with an ex-partner after a separation.
During the process, you may have a number of questions about their care and how to best manage the change – who will they spend their time with? How will they be supported?
Testart Family Lawyers have decades of experience helping families navigate these tough decisions. We do our utmost to achieve a resolution outside of the courts, by providing access to specialist mediators and legal advice. And if that’s not possible, we can help give you the best chance of achieving the result you want in court.
To help you start making decisions, we’ve taken a look at recommended child custody schedules by age in Australia.
Creating a child custody schedule
If you’re splitting custody of your child, you’ll need a child custody schedule. This document lays out a plan that details:
- When each parent will get to see the child.
- How much time each parent will get to spend with them.
- Where the child will live most of the time.
- How and when any changeovers will occur.
While this might seem overly formal when it comes to something like childcare, it’s always best to have a solid agreement and plan in place to avoid any confusion or disputes in future.
When putting this plan together, it’s important to consider a key clause in the Family Law Act 1975 (section 60CC), which considers both the benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with both their parents and the need to protect the child from abuse or neglect.
You should also consider who the child will be living with – will they call one parents house home and visit the other? Or will they split time between both homes?
Babies up to 18 months
Babies need consistency and frequent contact with both parents. Usually, a baby lives with one parent and has visits with the other. Your plan should enable the baby to have a fixed routine for sleeping and eating that stays the same, regardless of which parent they’re with.
It may be a good idea to include notes in your plan that ensure both parents communicate about the baby’s development, eating and sleeping. This can help ensure consistency between the two carers’ treatment of the baby.
Toddlers and preschoolers
Toddlers can be particularly sensitive to change and may become attached to one or both caregivers. Similar to a baby plan, a toddler or preschooler schedule should allow frequent contact with both parents and a consistent routine that doesn’t change when they’re with a different caregiver.
Children and parents may also be able to contact each other on the telephone at reasonable hours when they are apart to help ease the transition.
Toddlers and preschoolers may be able to spend slightly more time away from each parent than babies.
School age children
Child custody schedules can be more flexible for school age children because they’re better equipped to handle separation from parents and understand the concept of a routine.
They may be comfortable having two homes, have friends and commitments outside of home, and be more independent. Even so it’s a good idea to keep a routine so that they are aware of where they will be and when.
School age children can spend longer periods of time apart from each parent.
Teenagers are starting to become adults. As a result, they may prefer to spend time with friends than family and have a number of commitments outside of home, from school and work to hobbies and sports.
Your plan will need to adapt to fit your teenager’s schedule, and you’ll need to be prepared to take their preferences into consideration when planning. The teenager should be able to communicate directly with both parents to figure out parenting time.
Creating your own child custody schedule
Creating your own schedule is a good first step toward arranging a workable child custody agreement.
If you need help creating a schedule that works for both parents and your child – or navigating a child custody dispute – get in touch with Testart Family Law. We have decades of experience taking care of families and helping them navigate child custody and family law and we’d love to help you.