Child Custody Schedules by Age: Understanding Your Options

Age Plays a Role in Custody Cases

Deciding on a custody schedule after separation or divorce is a big decision, and it's natural to want what's best for your child's well-being. But with so many options, from weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other to splitting weeks in half, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. This blog section will explore how a child's age can play a role in crafting a custody arrangement that fosters stability, security, and a strong connection with both parents.

The Stages of Child Development & Their Impact on Custody

Child development is a complex process that unfolds in various stages, each characterized by unique physical, emotional, and cognitive milestones. Understanding these stages is crucial for parents, especially when designing custody schedules that support a child's well-being.

Infants (zero to 12 months old) are at the very beginning of their developmental journey. This stage is marked by rapid physical growth, including significant brain development. Infants form strong attachments to their caregivers, relying on them for comfort, security, and basic needs.

Toddlers (one to three years old) enter a phase of exploration and independence, which is why this stage often involves taking their first steps and expanding language skills. Emotionally, toddlers start to assert their independence but still require reassurance and security from their caregivers.

Preschoolers (three to five years old) continue to develop their sense of identity and autonomy. They become more engaged with peers and start to learn social skills such as sharing and cooperation. At this stage, children also develop their imagination and cognitive abilities through play.

School-aged Children (six to 12 years) experience significant development in their cognitive and social skills. They become more independent, develop friendships outside of the family, and engage in school activities. Their emotional needs include support for their educational goals and extracurricular interests.

Teenagers (13-18 years old) face the task of developing their identity, gaining independence, and preparing for adulthood. This period is marked by rapid physical changes, deeper cognitive abilities, and more complex social relationships. Teenagers begin to assert their independence and often wish to have a say in their living arrangements.

Custody Schedules Based on the Child’s Developmental Stage

Below, we discuss common schedules that work well for different age groups, offering insights to help you create a plan that prioritizes your child's unique needs.


At this age, the consistency of care is critical for their emotional development, and any custody arrangement should ensure frequent contact with both parents to foster secure attachments. In many cases, newborns live with one parent have and have day or nighttime visits with the others to maintain a consistent feeding and sleep schedule.

However, parents of older infants may have overnight exchanges or may consider having the following types of custody schedules:

  • Alternating every two days. As the name suggests, this schedule involves the child switching homes every other day.
  • 5-2 schedule. In this arrangement, the child spends five days with one parent and two days with the other parent. This often follows a pattern of weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other. It provides a balance between extended periods and shorter visits.
  • 2-2-3 schedule. This schedule has the child spending two days with one parent, then two days with the other parent, followed by three days back with the first parent. The cycle then repeats. Parents are offered a near 50/50 split but with some variation in weekday and weekend times.
  • Every 3rd-day schedule. This less common schedule involves the child switching homes every three days and provides more equal parenting time during the week.


Custody schedules for children this age should maintain a stable environment that allows for exploration within a consistent routine. While the same schedules that work for infants can also work well for toddlers, some other schedules that are good for toddlers include:

  • Every weekend or extended weekend schedule. This schedule offers the parent with less parenting time more consistent access to the child during weekends. With the basic every weekend schedule, the child spends weekends with one parent (Friday evening to Sunday evening) and weekdays with the other parent. The extended weekend variation grants the parent with less parenting time more than just Saturdays and Sundays. It could include Fridays, Mondays, or even both, depending on the agreement.
  • 4-3 schedule. Parent A has the child for four consecutive days. Parent B then has the child for three consecutive days, and this cycle repeats itself throughout the weeks.

Parents might also consider incorporating phone or video calls between the child and the other parent to help combat separation anxiety. Toddlers may also benefit from having photos of both parents in their rooms or personal space.


Children between the ages of three and five can benefit from custody arrangements that provide them with opportunities for social interaction and learning, alongside maintaining a stable routine. Parents should consider the 4-3, 3-4-4-3, alternating weeks, or the 5-2 schedule for preschoolers. The 3-4-4-3 is similar to the 4-3 schedule, but the exchanges occur in a different pattern.

School-Aged Children

For children ages six to 12, their custody schedules need to be flexible enough to accommodate school schedules and activities while ensuring the child has a stable home environment for study and rest. Custody schedules that usually work well for children in this age group include:

  • Week on/week off. This is a simple and common custody schedule where the child spends a full week with one parent, followed by a full week with the other parent.
  • Alternating weekends with a midweek visit. The child spends alternating weekends with each parent. In addition, there's a midweek visit with the non-custodial parent during the week. This midweek visit can be a specific weekday evening or can alternate between weekdays.


For teenagers, who often juggle academic responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and social commitments, custody schedules need to be flexible and adaptive. A successful approach involves collaborative scheduling, where teenagers have some say in the arrangement, respecting their growing independence and busy calendars. A common solution is a block schedule, allowing teens to stay with one parent for longer periods, such as a week or two at a time, reducing the frequency of transitions and providing stability during school terms or sports seasons.

Special Considerations

Across all these stages, it's evident that children's emotional and physical needs evolve. A well-thought-out custody arrangement considers these changing needs, fostering an environment where children can thrive despite the challenges of their parents living apart. Parents and caregivers must communicate effectively and work together to adapt custody schedules as their child grows and their needs change.

We acknowledge that parents will need to consider other factors, outside of their child’s age, when developing a parenting plan and custody schedule. For instance, the distance between parents and the decision/ability of one party to stay home with their child can have an impact.

If your child has special needs, their age may not be the most important factor when dividing custody. Special needs children often require a tailored approach to their care, which can encompass a wide range of considerations, from medical treatments and therapies to educational support and routine stability. The specific nature of the child's condition—be it physical, developmental, emotional, or cognitive—can dictate the necessity for specialized care, accessibility adaptations, and consistent healthcare-provider relationships.

For instance, a child with autism might benefit from minimal disruptions in their environment and routine, necessitating a custody schedule that limits transitions between homes. Similarly, a child with a physical disability might require a primary residence equipped with necessary modifications or close to specialized medical care. Thus, custody decisions must prioritize the unique needs and well-being of the child over traditional considerations, ensuring that both parents are equipped and committed to providing the specialized support their child requires.

It is also important to note that Missouri courts also consider the child’s preference when making custody decisions. If custody determinations are left to the court, the court can invite the child to share their preference. However, the law does not specify at what age a child can be asked which parent they wish to live with, but in general, the court allows children that are at least ten years old and older to express their preference.

Talk with Our Child Custody Attorneys

With over 45 years of collective legal experience, the attorneys at Kallen Law Firm, LLC are equipped to help you protect your rights and honor the best interest of your child. We represent both mothers and fathers in custody cases and offer each of our clients unique and personalized solutions.

Whether you need help with an initial filing or a modification petition, our firm can talk through your options with you. Having represented countless parents, our team can help you understand the various custody schedules available to you, the different types of custody, and the ways you can approach mediation or litigation of your custody case.

Our team also has experience in handling custody cases involving special needs children. We understand the unique issues parents and families can face in these cases and aim to help you understand your legal options.

Schedule an initial consultation by completing our online contact form or calling (314) 441-7793.