When determining an appropriate parenting schedule for the first time, it is important to keep in mind that a child’s age and stage of development will impact their ability to adjust and thrive in their new circumstances.
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, there is no presumption at law in Canada that parents should have equal parenting time. Instead, the main consideration of the Court in determining parenting arrangements is what is in the best interests of the child. One factor that is relevant to a child’s best interests is their age. For example, child development research suggests that children under 5 years of age might do best when they are not away from either parent for more than 2-3 days at a time, whereas school-age children might more easily adapt to a week-to-week transition with each parent. Of course, all of this will depend on the child’s temperament and other individualized circumstances. An excellent resource for information on age appropriate plans and schedules is the Parenting Plan Guide produced by the Ontario Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC-Ontario), produced with the experience of family lawyers and expertise of psychologists and social work professionals.
Of course, there are many additional factors other than age that will have a bearing on the most appropriate schedule for any particular child and set of parents (work schedules, the location of each parent’s home, any specialized needs of the child, the ability of parents to communicate effectively, transportation issues, and more). There is no one-size-fits-all parenting plan, but to extent that these factors can be considered, the more likely a parenting plan is to be successful in making co-parenting is a positive experience for everyone.