Few things push the anger button faster than feeling like your time with your child is being taken away. Co-parents argue about parenting time and can often feel significant anxiety about discussing the schedule with one another. Children can also feel the anxiety of not knowing where they will be on a particular day. This unpredictability can lead the whole family to unhappiness and stress.
Did you know that the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines suggest the creation of an annual parenting time calendar each year? This suggestion is somewhat hidden in the Commentary section of the Guidelines’ Preamble, so it’s possible it slipped by you. The Commentary suggests that it is helpful for parents to create a year-long parenting time calendar. “Forecasting a year ahead helps the parents anticipate a plan for holidays, birthdays and school vacations.”
While creating a year-long parenting time calendar might sound like a lot of work, it is simpler than it seems. Begin by logging the regular parenting time onto a paper calendar with a pencil (there are numerous printable calendars online). Use your court order for reference and record the normal rotation of days and weekends for the whole year by writing “Dad” or “Mom” on particular days. Next pull out the school corporation calendar to see where the school year ends in the spring and where the next school year begins in the fall. Mark those dates. Erase the normal weekend and parenting time rotation contained between these two dates in preparation for adding a summer schedule in a moment.
Your next step will be to review your court order and/or the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines for the schedule of holidays and special days. For each of these days or periods of time, find the corresponding date on the calendar. Erase any regular parenting time notation that is currently on a holiday or special day date and replace it with a notation giving those dates to the parent who will exercise the holiday time. Laying your holiday time on top of your regular parenting time like a transparency that changes only the holiday and special days dates while leaving all other regular parenting time alone helps avoid confusion about whose parenting time it is when holidays end. This is important because the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines specify that the regular weekend rotation should continue even when holiday time gives a parent three weekends in a row. Instead of shuffling the schedule or trying to find make up time, the regular schedule simply resumes as if the holiday had not occurred.
Finally it’s time to return to the summer break and enter a summer schedule. When distance is not a factor and unless your specific court order says otherwise, the non-custodial parent has the ability to select the summer schedule provided that holiday and special day parenting times are honored and that the election is made by April 1st. Of course there is no requirement that the non-custodial parent wait until April 1st to make a summer schedule election. In fact, it is helpful to both parents to have the summer schedule set as early as possible.
Once the annual calendar is done, both parents should have a copy. Hanging it on the refrigerator for the family to see is a good idea. Instantly there is less confusion as to where a child will be on a particular weekend or date. Plans can be made and everyone can relax and feel confident that the schedule is set. The effort made to sketch out the year on paper is worth it to reduce arguments and confusion. After all, peaceful co-parenting benefits the whole family.