Written by attorney Margaret H. Brost

Should you agree to a 50/50 parenting plan?

Not without first talking to an attorney. There are a number of issues related to such a parenting arrangement, but I am only going to discuss three. The first has to do with the trouble it may cause for your children. The last two, child support and relocation, create the most legal trouble. Some children do great with a week-on and week-off schedule. Other children have a very difficult time because they just get settled into one household and then have to shift gears. Also, very young children may not do well with frequent changes of “home". I often recommend that parents get some advice from someone who has knowledge of child development. Working with a good professional can help parents come up with a plan that works for their children as they grow and develop. Remember, the hardest thing for children is conflict between the people they love the most. It is miserable for them. You should do as much as you can to make sure that the transition between one home and the other is smooth and easy, regardless of the amount of time they spend in each home. Child support is also an issue that can create a lot of difficulty. Any deviation from the usual every other week-end schedule may result in a decrease in child support. When children spend equal time in each home, child support is usually reduced. By the way, that does not mean that the support payment is cut in half. The calculation is a bit more complicated because it must take into consideration differences in the income of the two parties. Although child support should not be reduced if, by doing so, there would be inadequate support in the home of the parent having the lesser income, this is often not considered when there is a 50/50 residential schedule. The other significant issue is relocation. When a primary residential parent wants to move, there is a presumption that the move will be permitted by the court. In a 50/50 parenting plan, there is no primary residential parent. This can lead to a protracted legal battle that is both emotionally wrenching and expensive, with no guarantee that the move will be permitted. Having said all that, I do not want to discourage parents from agreeing to a 50/50 plan if this decision is well thought out; and especially if both parents are committed to staying in the same geographic location. I also do not want to suggest that one parent should try to limit the opportunities for the other parent to have time with the children.

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