Most Common Child Custody Arrangements

Relationship breakdowns are almost always difficult, but they can be extra complicated when children are involved. For parents or guardians, a separation means that they must make child custody arrangements to ensure the wellbeing of their children. Navigating child custody involves determining how parental responsibilities and time with the child are going to be allocated between each parent. Working this all out can be complicated, but there are ways to approach this task that make things a little easier. Australian family law encourages parents to prioritise open communication and, when necessary, seek the guidance of legal professionals to facilitate fair and amicable custody arrangements. Learning about the various types of custody arrangements can also help you ensure you’re not entering the decision-making process completely blind. As you consider the options, keep in mind that there is no ‘correct’ custody arrangement that works for everyone. The decision you make will be based on the particular dynamics of your family and needs of your children 

It’s also worth noting that, while we use the word ‘custody’ colloquially, the term is not recognised in the Australian legal system.

Sole Parental Responsibility

Sole parenting responsibility or sole custody refers to situations where one parent has complete care/custody of their child, and does not share that role with anyone else. This parent has the power to make all decisions regarding their child’s long-term welfare. 

Shared Care

Shared care refers to situations where both parents have care/custody of their children and share the responsibility of making decisions concerning their children’s long-term welfare. In this kind of arrangement, the children will spend time at each of the parents’ respective houses. In terms of day-to-day operations, shared care can look very different from family to family.

2-2-3 Plan

The 2-2-3 method is generally favoured by parents with younger children. This plan allows the children to spend regular time with each parent without having to be apart from either of them for long periods of time. However, the 2-2-3 plan can be very tricky to execute if the parents don’t live near one another or have an easy way to transport the children back and forth. Busy schedules can also make this kind of arrangement difficult, as can a strained relationship between the parents. However, if these considerations can be overcome, the 2-2-3 plan can be very effective and beneficial.

The 2-2-3 plan follows a rotation that looks like this:

Monday and Tuesday: Parent 1

Wednesday and Thursday: Parent 2

Friday, Saturday and Sunday: Parent 1

Monday and Tuesday: Parent 2 

Wednesday and Thursday: Parent 1 

Friday, Saturday and Sunday: Parent 2

2-2-5 Plan

This plan is generally better for parents with older children who have busier schedules and extracurricular activities. It involves less frequent travel and a more consistent schedule because parents will have the children on the same weekdays every week. The 2-2-5 plan looks like this:

Monday and Tuesday: Parent 1

Wednesday and Thursday: Parent 2

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday: Parent 1

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday: Parent 2

One Week On, One Week Off

This arrangement is the most common solution for families, probably because of its simplicity. It works well for parents of children who are a bit older because older kids are generally better equipped to go long periods without seeing one of their parents. However, it is still important to keep similar routines between the households. This will make the transition to and from each household gentler on the kids, and the overall situation easier for them to deal with.

Alternating Weeks With Visits

Another way of saying ‘one week on, one week off’, alternating weeks is a very common parenting arrangement. The twist here is that each parent can come visit during their off week. This arrangement makes things a bit easier, especially if the children are on the younger side, but some parents may find it more difficult to organise. 

Alternate Weekends

Alternate weekends are another common arrangement, particularly in situations where the non-resident parent works long hours during the week. In this arrangement, one parent has the children every second weekend, from Friday afternoon to Sunday night or Monday morning. The rest of the time, they stay with the other parent.

These days, the alternate weekends arrangement is becoming less common. This is because employers are more willing to allow for flexible work arrangements, which has made it easier for full-time workers to take on their children solo during the week. The option to work from home, for example, can make taking care of children much easier.

 4/5/6-Day Fortnight

This arrangement might sound a bit complicated, but it’s essentially the same idea as having alternate weekends, just with some added time for the non-resident parent. While some non-resident parents struggle to take their kids on for consecutive weeknights, they feel that alternate weekends don’t allow enough opportunity for quality time with their kids. The 4/5/6-day fortnight is a solution to this problem. There are several possible variations of this arrangement, as outlined below:

  • Thursday–Monday every second week, plus a possible mid-week overnight stay during the off week;
  • Wednesday–Monday every second week;
  • Wednesday–Tuesday every second week.

Parents Moving Into & out of the House

This arrangement is more of a short-term solution, and also a good option for the transitionary period of a separation. It acknowledges that children can have a difficult time adjusting to two separate households, especially when one of those households is a completely new environment. Instead of subjecting them to potential stress, some parents keep the kids in the house they’d been living in prior to separation. Each parent then takes turns moving into and out of the house from week to week. While they’re not at the family home, the parents might rent a place or stay with family. Ultimately, this is likely a temporary solution and not an arrangement that can easily be maintained in the long term. 

Find a Family Lawyer You Can Trust

Negotiating custody arrangements can be complicated, emotional and stressful. It’s a process that involves balancing your children’s needs with your capacities as parents, all while navigating new and difficult circumstances. To make this process easier, we recommend that you enlist help from a family lawyer. A skilled family lawyer possesses the expertise to navigate the legal intricacies surrounding custody and offer invaluable advice on family law. Their experience can help you understand your rights, responsibilities and options, fostering a more informed and empowered decision-making process.

At family law firm Duffy & Simon, we understand the importance of creating a stable and nurturing environment for your children. Our family lawyers are experienced in helping individuals and families achieve the best possible outcomes. We can support you as you work towards a custody arrangement that prioritises the wellbeing of your children, facilitates effective co-parenting, and minimises stress during a potentially tumultuous time.

Reach out to Duffy & Simon today, and we’ll help pave the way for a smoother transition into this new chapter of your family’s life.