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How Do Judges Set Custody Schedules?

In some states, the courts are required to determine custody based on special state guidelines, kind of like Child Support Guidelines in North Carolina.  But in our state, there is no legal rule requiring judges to use, or at least begin with, a certain schedule. While there is no one size fits all requirement, similarities are common, especially when parents work daytime jobs. Although there are many dozens of variations, this article focuses on the more typical types of cases.


Work schedules are the starting point for judges to consider.  Many people have at least some weekends available outside of work, and judges will usually alternate those weekends. Sometimes judges will also rotate particular evenings or overnight visits during the week, such as Wednesdays, so each parent will have some visitation time each week.


School schedules also play a role, particularly when it comes to school holidays. There are random days carved out for teacher workdays, spring break, other holidays, as well as summer vacation.  There is no right answer for custody schedules but most of the time the parent who does not have the children with him or her during the school year will have substantial time during the summer. Custody schedules also take into account the activities in which children participate, such as sports and other extracurricular activities.

Other Matters

When parents live in different states, or work unusual hours, the judge must decide how to block time so that the parent who has less time with the children will have time with them as circumstances allow.  Particularly in these circumstances, grandparents or other people close to the children can play it big role in facilitating a close relationship between that parent and the children by providing transportation and/or child care if necessary.  Your attorney’s job is to show the court why the best interest of your children is served by the schedule you are seeking.



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