Initially at the onset of separation you may have agreed to have the kids on the weekend whilst the coparent has the kids during the week. This may have come about due to pre-separation parenting you were going to work to provide financially, whilst the other parent was the homemaker.
This arrangement may have worked well and become entrenched over time whereby the kids are now in their teens and have been use to coming to stay with you every weekend.
However, circumstances for you may have changed, whereby you may have met someone special or your current partner has expressed that it would be nice to have some more one on one time with you over the weekend.
You don’t want to hurt your children’s feelings and you still want to see them just as much, just not for the full weekend, every weekend! You feel that you should have some time at the weekend to go out and enjoy yourself with your partner!
So, what should you do to create a win/win situation whilst ensuring your children don’t feel rejected?
Firstly, identify how many hours and overnights you currently have them for. It could be that they currently come to you Friday after school and go back to school from your place Monday morning or they may come to you Saturday morning and go back Sunday evening. Work out the exact number of hours you have them for. Why? As you don’t want to hurt the kids by saying you want to reduce the time you have with them as this can make them feel rejected, abandoned, sad or unwanted. You want to be able to spread the same amount of time across the week or fortnight as you have now.
Secondly, work out what free time are you looking for over the weekend. Are you needing one overnight to enjoy the evening out without the need to come home early due to the kids being on their own, or do you want the opportunity to go away for a weekend with your partner?
If you have a good coparenting relationship, you may want to discuss the opportunity to change the current shared parenting schedule with them with some input from the children. You never know, the proposal to change may give your coparent an opportunity to spend weekend events with the children too. Your children may want to change things around so that they can do sports, activities or hang out with their friends more.
If your coparenting relationship isn’t very good, you may opt to do mediation to have a neutral party facilitate the negotiation. It may be beneficial to have child informed mediation so a child consultant can bring the voice of the child into the mediation.
Outline to your children you would like to adjust the exact amount of time spent with them in a different format so you all get to propose what you think might work.
It may be that you still have the kids for the weekend but it starts Saturday morning rather than Friday after school, so you get a night out and overnight with your partner and your kids may enjoy a social night out with their friends. The Friday night may be switched with a midweek night such as Wednesday night.
You might agree that one weekend a month would enable you to go away with your partner for the weekend and those 2 or 3 nights are spread across the month whereby you have the kids an extra night in the week.
You may suggest to the children that you could negotiate with your kids’ friends’ parents to have your kids invite a friend to sleep over every second Friday night and your kids’ friends have them sleep over every alternate Friday night.
You may agree with your coparent that you swap your regular Friday and Saturday night overnights with the kids for Thursday and Friday overnight stays, so that you get Saturday nights and all-day Sunday with your partner. This may be alternated with your coparent fortnightly so you both alternate to get the same time.
Be mindful that everyone’s feelings are to be considered and input be provided to come up with a solution to either trial or become a permanent arrangement. Even if the current arrangement is court ordered you can attend mediation to have a signed parenting plan override the shared parenting arrangement.
There may be many combinations that you, your coparent and your children can work out what will be a win/win solution for the family.
Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Conflicted Coparenting Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator, Parenting Coordinator & Author