Setting up a child custody arrangement can cause significant distress for both parents. Neither of you wants to give up time with your children unnecessarily, but you also want the best possible arrangement for your family’s needs. What should you consider as you put together your child custody arrangement? There are several factors that parents often fail to think about ahead of time.

1. What does each parent’s regular schedule look like?

Carefully consider what your normal weekly schedules look like. Does one parent have specific days off each week? Is one parent better prepared to handle school schedules and involvement? Just as importantly, does one parent often work weekends? You want each parent to have the ability to spend time with the kids, not to have to shuttle them off to a babysitter or relative during most of their parenting time.

2. How do you want to handle special events?

When you have limited visitation with your children, every moment counts. That does not mean, however, that special events will not arise along the way. One weekend, your child has a special birthday sleepover she wants to attend. During sports seasons, your child might spend more time away from home than with you. Carefully consider ahead of time how you want to handle those situations and consider including it as part of your parenting plan. Remember to keep the kids’ needs in mind, not just convenience for the parents.

3. What do you want to do about the holidays?

For the years of your marriage, you likely split the holidays between your families in some way. That arrangement might not work the same way once you divorce, but your children will likely still want to celebrate with their entire family. Consider how you want to handle holidays ahead of time. Are there holidays that mean more to one parent than the other? That parent might want the children with them. On the other hand, for holidays that are often equally important to both parents, including holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving, work out an arrangement that will allow you to have a reasonable amount of time with your children, without denying the other parent important special occasions.

4. How will your children’s needs change as they get older?

If you get divorced when your children are young, plan to revisit your custody arrangement at some point. Your children’s needs may be very different as teens than they are as toddlers. An older teen, for example, might want to choose which parent they stay with the majority of the time. As children get older, extracurricular activities often take up more of their time. Remember that you need to focus on your child’s needs, not necessarily parental convenience. While you can plan ahead for many contingencies, you may still have to review your custody arrangement as your children age.

Creating a child custody arrangement can prove incredibly difficult and emotional. If you need help ensuring that you have considered all the critical elements or in drafting a custody agreement that works for your family, an experienced family attorney can be an invaluable asset.