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Why age matters when negotiating a child custody schedule

If you find yourself in a position where you’re brokering a deal to share your kids with your ex, you likely don’t need anyone telling you how challenging doing that can be. 

It’s particularly difficult having to make child custody arrangements when you have more than one child. While changes might arise due to each child’s uniqueness, their age impacts what custodial arrangement is developmentally appropriate for them.

Custody for infants and toddlers

Children under three years of age tend to cling to their primary caretaker. Kids in this age group can begin to show signs of adverse behavioral changes after just a short amount of time away from that primary caregiver. It may be wise to limit the non-custodial parent’s visitation to a few hours at a time during this stage.

Custody for preschoolers or kindergarteners

Kids grow in independence between the ages of three and five. They tend to feel comfortable spending an extended amount of time away from their parent and continue to keep their missing parent in the forefront of their mind as they do so. Preschoolers are the one exception to this rule. They tend to prefer spending the bulk of their time with their same-sex parent. 

This is a great time to begin introducing overnights into your child’s schedule. Children tend to be quite expressive at this age, as well. You can expect them to voice when they’re unhappy with any arrangement you and your co-parent put in place.

Parenting plans for primary school kids and tweens

Children continue to grow in independence as they reach elementary school age or become tweens. They also become increasingly social and develop lasting friendships during these years. This increased independence and socialization allow them to spend longer periods away from their parents. This creates more room for flexible parenting plans.

Parenting plans for teens

Teenagers tend to think of their parents’ decisions to divorce as disruptive. The best way to help adolescents with their parents’ relationship woes is to be highly flexible with custodial arrangements. When practical, it’s often wise to let the teenager have some influence over the schedule.

Brokering a custody schedule that works for your kids isn’t likely to be easy. If you put your kids first and focus on their developmental and emotional needs, then the schedule you put in place will be more supportive of them, though.