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Should you place restrictions on parenting time swaps?

No matter how detailed your custody agreement is, if you and your co-parent are sharing custody of your children after divorce, there will be times when the parent who's supposed to have the kids on a designated day (or days) can't fulfill that commitment. Work and other family obligations sometimes make it impossible to care for the kids when you're supposed to.

When these unforeseen circumstances arise, parents will often swap their parenting time. The parent who can't take the kids on their designated weekend will take them the following weekend, for example.

However, when these requests for swaps -- particularly by one parent -- occur frequently, it's often a sign that this parent is prioritizing other things over their responsibilities to their kids (and their co-parent). Frequent changes to the agreed-upon schedule can cause considerable inconvenience to kids and parents alike. They can also prevent kids from building a routine in the aftermath of their parents' divorce.

Moreover, some parents never get around to honoring the swap they've requested. They never take the kids for that extra weekend later on. Therefore, they end up spending far less time with the kids than originally promised.

Parents can work to prevent these repeated requests for parenting time changes by addressing the topic in their custody agreement and parenting plan. Parents can designate:

Having language regarding these changes codified in your agreement won't guarantee that a parent won't seek more than the designated limit. True emergencies do occur. However, by seeking these restrictions, you're showing your co-parent that you're serious about sticking to the parenting time schedule. That can minimize the number of requests for changes they make.

If you didn't place such restrictions in your agreement when you first drew it up, your family law attorney can help you seek to add them now. This can help your children and you have a more predictable schedule and less unnecessary tumult in your lives.

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