No matter how carefully considered and detailed your custody and visitation agreement is, there may be times when you or your co-parent need to deviate from it. Usually, when co-parents can’t take the kids for their scheduled parenting time, they negotiate a “swap.” If a co-parent has to go out of town for business or a family emergency on the weekend the kids are supposed to be with them, for example, they’ll ask their co-parent to keep them and promise to take them for a different couple of days.
This can present a number of problems. First, if these schedule changes occur more than on rare occasions, they can wreak havoc on the kids’ and the other parent’s lives. Second, if your co-parent is constantly requesting swaps, it could be a sign that they’re prioritizing other things over their time with their kids. Third, too often, the “swap” never happens. Time passes and one or both parents may forget about it, or the parent who requested it never makes up the time.
If you’re running into a problem with your co-parent’s frequent requests for schedule changes or swaps, it’s a good idea to start keeping track of the days that the two of you deviated from your custody and visitation agreement. If this doesn’t help, you may want to consider addressing the matter in a modified custody agreement. For example, you can limit the number of schedule changes that each parent can request per year. You may also designate how far in advance a change has to be requested.
Of course, true emergencies can arise. However, by showing your co-parent that you’re serious about minimizing these deviations from the schedule, you may be able to make them think twice before agreeing to something that conflicts with their designated parenting time. By minimizing these schedule changes, you also help your kids get used to their new post-divorce routine.