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Developing a joint custody parenting schedule that works

If joint custody is awarded to parents in Arizona, the next step is to iron out a parenting schedule that's also acceptable to both parties. It's a process meant to be about more than just divvying up parenting responsibilities: It's also an opportunity for parents to show their children that they can work together and keep their best interests in mind.

For this reason, parents with joint physical custody are typically advised to put themselves in their kids' shoes by considering what their children will gain and lose by having to split time between two homes. When possible, parents are also advised to make an effort to remain close enough to one another to make logistics issues manageable. This can be especially important if kids are in the middle of a school year or when younger children have a favorite babysitter.

A workable parenting plan tends to be one that's flexible enough to allow for changes in each child's school schedule. For instance, one parent may have to temporarily change their regular custody days if a child will have after-school activities on specific days during certain months. The extent to which children will have a say in a parenting schedule is generally based on their age. With younger children, decisions are usually based on what's right for their stage of life. Even if preferences expressed by older children are overruled by one or both parents, they'll likely appreciate the opportunity to be heard.

It can be helpful for newly single parents to test drive their initial parenting schedule for 2-4 weeks to see how practical it really is. If there is a need to make adjustments, a lawyer may help facilitate this process. For times when both parents are simply unable to work out a healthy and mutually acceptable parenting schedule, a family law attorney might recommend letting the court determine an appropriate schedule. Even when joint custody isn't awarded, a lawyer may be able to help a non-custodial parent exercise their visitation rights in a way that keeps the best interests of the child in mind.

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