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Understanding the 80/20 custody schedule

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Many divorcing parents have nontraditional work schedules or jobs that require long, sometimes unpredictable hours. During the marriage, the other spouse was able to take care of the kids when that parent couldn’t be home. However, after the two separate, that parent can’t very well share custody (or “parenting time,” as Illinois law refers to it) equally. The same is true for parents who are going to be living some distance from their child after divorce.

For families in this situation, an 80/20 child custody arrangement is often the best option. It typically involves the child staying with their primary caregiver most of the time but spending every other weekend with their other parent.

If the parent lives some distance away, it often involves that parent driving, flying or taking the train to visit their child. If the child is old enough, they may be the one to do the traveling, at least occasionally.

Making the most of your limited parenting time

If this schedule is the one you have to choose, at least for a time, you can still make the most out of those weekend visits with your child. Having a communication plan is also crucial so that you can video chat with your child every day or as often as possible. It’s important to have that codified in your parenting plan so there’s less chance of confusion or conflict and your child can count on regularly talking to you.

If you’re considering this schedule, and you’re the one with the lesser amount of time with your child, it’s wise to cover holiday breaks and summer vacations in the custody agreement so you can make the most of your child’s time out of school. That might include a week or two of vacation you can spend together or some long weekends over winter and spring breaks.

When you’re the parent who doesn’t get to be in their child’s life as much as they’d like, it’s important to make sure you get the time together that you and your child are entitled to have. Having legal guidance as you work out your custody arrangement will help you protect your parenting rights.

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