There are of course other holidays to consider (some of which really are all about enjoying long weekends and extra fun time with kids who are off school):
Easter weekend, spring break, summer holidays, Thanksgiving weekend, Family Day weekend, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Hallowe’en.
Other families might honour these holidays and want to incorporate these special days/times into their child custody schedules:
Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Eid al-Fitr, or Eid al-Adha.
Every family is different, and some people like the consistency of a regular schedule throughout the year, while others want to make special occasions memorable, and those memories include them wanting special times with their kids. It all depends on a family’s unique circumstances.
First right of refusal custody
Sometimes a parent is unable to care for the child during their parenting time. This is when first right of refusal custody comes in. Basically, this type of arrangement requires that a parent, if they will be unavailable for any reason, must first offer parenting time to the other parent rather than having a third-party caregiver care for the child.
Most of the time, there is a timeline set, like four hours or more. For example, if a parent has to run out to the store for 20 minutes, they might leave the child at home with their new partner and come right back. In that case, it doesn’t make sense that the other parent is called to care for the child. However, and unfortunately, we just saw a sample of this recently, a parent went out for an entire day of playing golf. That parent left his 3-year old in the care of a third party for more than nine hours. Rather than offering that parenting time to the mother, who was ready, able and very much wanting to spend the day with the child, the parent chose a third-party to care for the child instead because it was “his” parenting time. This is a perfect example of when first right of refusal custody should be utilized.
Co-parenting after divorce - child custody schedules can be as unique as each family
One example we see of child custody schedules that have built-in both consistency and flexibility is when a parent is in the military. For example, when one parent is deployed for months at a time, they will have almost no time with their children, but when they are returned home for months, the parents then enter into a more shared parenting-time arrangement.
Kids thrive when their schedules are clear, not only to their parents but to them. That is why we suggest parents use a colour-coded calendar for little kids and clearly communicate the schedule (and any anticipated changes) to older kids.
When establishing a co-parenting schedule, it can be helpful to use a template as a starting point. A child custody schedule template provides a framework for parents to create a personalized schedule that fits their specific circumstances. It outlines the days and times when the child will be with each parent, making it easier to coordinate schedules and plan other activities. A custody schedule template can also serve as a reference point for addressing any conflicts or disputes that may arise in the future.
Of course, in BC, child custody arrangements should always prioritize the child's best interests. Factors such as the child's age, relationship with each parent, school schedule, and extracurricular activities must be considered.
One of the things that must be considered is that child custody schedules impact the amount of child support that must be paid.
For example, in the case of 50 50 child support, a parent’s obligation to pay child support will be reduced when there is shared care.
How does child support work with child custody schedules?
In BC, if a parent does not have their child in their care at least 40% of the time according to their child custody schedule, then they will pay support based upon the Federal Child Support Guidelines. The amount of support to be paid by that parent is based on their income.
50 50 custody child support, for example, is when parents share the children equally, but often they think that when they have this kind of child custody schedule, that neither parent will pay child support to the other. In BC, this is not always the case. For example, if one parent makes $30,000 per year, and the other, $250,000 per year, the higher income earning parent will still, in almost all circumstances, pay the lower income earning parent child support. In Canadian child custody laws we call it a “set off” amount of support. It helps equalize the resources between the households. That way a child will not have a drastically different lifestyle between each of their parents’ homes.
On the other hand, for a lot of parents, paying child support can create significant financial consequences, particularly if they live in expensive cities like Vancouver or Victoria. For the recipient parent, the amount of child support is often something they very much count on in order to pay for their housing costs.
Although we never want to see a “tail wagging the dog” - type situation – that is parents first trying to figure out how to reduce their child support obligation and only then determining the schedule, the amount of child support payable can be a very real factor that significantly impacts parents and their financial circumstances.
This is yet another reason why child custody schedules are so important and must be well-thought-out.