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We at Mundahl Law regularly blog about family law issues, but from time to time, we'll be sharing this space with clients and others who have experienced the Minnesota family law system from the client's perspective. This is one such story.
When you go through a divorce there are so many things that have to be split up, separated, let go of, the list goes on and on. You never really understand until you go through it and even then you are numb and just go through the motions.
For my divorce, that’s exactly what happened. We decided we were going to do what was best for the kids. We sat down at the kitchen table with our fancy little spreadsheet and started to split up everything we had together: first our belongings, then our finances, house, and vehicles. Then we had to have the most difficult discussion about how we split up our children because essentially that is what you do… you split your kids’ time between you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse. We went back and forth and back and forth, as it was the hardest decision to make.
My children at the time were 3 and 9. We were determined it would be fair. As a mom there was no way I was going to let my ex have more time with the children than me. He felt the exact same way. In the end, someone told us about the 2/2/5/5 schedule, and since we were so determined that the other wasn’t going to have more time with the kids it sounded like a great idea!
How wrong I was! If I could change one thing in my past, the decision to agree to a 2/2/5/5 parenting time schedule would be it. For those of you who are not familiar with 2/2/5/5, our schedule is listed below:
|Monday 1||Tuesday 1||Wednesday 1||Thursday 1||Friday 1||Saturday 1||Sunday 1|
|Mom @ 7 a.m.||Mom||Dad @ 5 p.m.||Dad||Mom @ 7 a.m.||Mom||Mom|
|Monday 2||Tuesday 2||Wednesday 2||Thursday 2||Friday 2||Saturday 2||Sunday 2|
|Mom||Mom||Dad @ 5 p.m.||Dad||Dad||Dad||Dad|
Now, it looks pretty simple, and my thought process at the time was that we each get equal time so everyone would be happy. We decided to go with the schedule. We got divorced and went our separate ways.
We started the schedule right as summer vacation started. A few months went by and it worked great, or so I thought. September came around and school started. My son would go to school in the morning and come home after school to my house every day, and then if it was his dad’s night he would be picked up around 5 p.m. My daughter would go to a daycare, and I would not pick her up if it was not my day.
Essentially I got to see my son every day, but not my daughter. It was difficult, but in a few years she would be home after school also, so I knew I could make it through…again, I was only thinking of myself. After a few months, the kids started fighting and were crabby every time they switched from one home to the other, and, without fail, it would take 24 hours for them to be back to themselves.
Imagine the emotional changes a child experiences when they go from one house to the other. Different rules, different bedtimes, different food, everything is different as no home is the same. Over the course of the next year, things got progressively worse and I realized what a huge mistake I had made. I realized that I was only thinking of myself and that my ex and I did not put ourselves in our children’s shoes when we made that decision.
My children lost their home. One could say that they gained a home, but essentially, they are drifters. They never stay at the same place long enough to settle in. I pick them up from school on Monday, and 48 hours later they are gone. Imagine a child taking a suitcase, packing it up, and moving into another home every couple of days; now add to that the hassle of doing it during the school week as well.
My children sleep in different beds depending on the day. They are tired, crabby, they fight, and they don’t listen. Because they will be gone in two days, consequences I might consider imposing, like removing TV privileges, don't carry as much weight.
As their mom, I should have put myself in their shoes when I made the decision to go forward with this awful schedule. If you ask my daughter, she will tell you what her schedule is. She has to take a lot of breaks to remember it correctly, and she is seven, but there are still days where she will ask, "Whose house am I at tomorrow?" If you ask her where home is, she will always pause, because she really doesn’t know how to answer that question.
My son is tired of going back and forth and says he is tired of spending so much time in the car, but says he gets it because it’s fair. I would love to change it, but through the years my ex and I are no longer friends and he won’t agree to a change. It would cost thousands in legal fees, and with the law the way it is, I don’t have a good enough reason to make the change. From the court’s point of view, the kids are not in any danger, so why change parenting time? The court does not consider emotional distress of this type to be a reason to change parenting time.
My daughter is in therapy weekly, and always on edge. My heart breaks picturing my two babies going back and forth every couple of days for the rest of their childhood. In the end, they have each other and that’s it. Where he goes, she goes and vice versa.
This may be quite the rant to read, but I am writing it the best way I can, and ask that any parent looking at the 2/2/5/5 schedule really think about what you are doing to your children. Are you really giving them the stability they need? Is it really the best thing for them? Or are you just thinking of yourself? How different would you feel if the children stayed in one home and you had to move in and out every couple of days to be with them?
There are no winners in divorce. However, I don’t believe that the 2/2/5/5 plan is putting the children’s emotional stability and the stability of their home life first.
For more about the 2/2/5/5 parenting time schedule, read “The 2/2/5/5 Parenting Schedule: Important Considerations,” or contact us for a consultation.