Tick Tock Goes The Clock: Calculating Timeshare in Family Law Cases

So, you’re going through a breakup, and you have children. What do you do about calculating timeshare? Draw straws? Assume one of you only gets weekends? Split them up, have one parent at least three time zones away and attempt to hypnotize the kids into thinking their sibling was an imaginary friend?

Having “50-50” custody doesn’t answer your questions. There is a difference between legal custody, which is about who has the right to be involved in important decision making for the child (Family Code section 3003), and physical custody, which is about timeshare so as to “assure the child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents.” (Family Code section 3004).

There is no magic number for a “fair” amount of time under the Family Code. You know your situation- whether you need to travel for work a certain amount of time each month, whether the children are involved in extracurriculars that require more time at one house, whether you and the other parent can reasonably keep up a literal 50% timeshare schedule, like trading weeks or 2-2-3 days each week. Your family law attorney can help you figure out what kind of schedule fits your particular family situation best.

Your timeshare percentage matters not only to be sure you are getting your fair share of time with your children, but also if you are going to need a child support order. Child support in California is calculated using an algebraic equation found in Family Code section 4055. The percentage of time with each parent can have a significant impact on the final financial support each will be required to pay

Some easy reference numbers:

  • It takes 3.65 days to equal 1% of a year. If you and the other parent are getting hung up on a half hour here or there, it may help to remember that it takes nearly four days to reach even 1%. You may decide the small amount of time you’re fighting about isn’t worth causing the children stress, in the big picture, or perhaps it’s a better use of your conversations for you to start talking about longer stretches of time.
  • There are 168 hours in one week. So, for example, if you get an overnight visit every Wednesday night from 5:00 pm to Thursday morning school drop off at 8:00 am, that’s 15 hours, and 15 divided by 168 is approximately 9% for those overnights.
  • There are 730 hours in one month. (Yes, if you want to be exact, it will differ slightly between, say, February and July. But the average number of hours in a month is 730.) If the other parent gets two weekends every month, say from Friday night to Sunday night, that’s 96 divided by 730, and, as such, the weekends are approximately 13%. If someone gets every other weekend, and not just two weekends every month, then the timeshare for the weekends is approximately 14%.
  • There are 8,760 hours in one year (that’s 525,600 minutes, as you already know if you have a child in a musical theater phase). If you want to know exactly what percentage your one-time visit of 985.75 hours is, you can use the yearly hours to find out.
  • If you are considering longer blocks of time, weeks over summer break for instance, it is often easier to run the calculations in terms of weeks. If you get half of a three-month summer, that is six weeks, which divided by 52 weeks in a year is approximately 12%.

Don’t double-count your time! Conversely, don’t let the other parent accidentally double-count their time. People are often surprised to hear their final timeshare percentage is somewhat lower than they thought they had. Sometimes it is because people mixed up legal and physical custody, and sometimes it is because they double-counted their time when they had extra time over the holidays or during school breaks. For instance, if you normally get every weekend, which is 28% on its own, but then you get six weeks in summer, which is 12%, your total timeshare is not 28+12=40%. You would have had the weekends on those six summer weeks already, so by adding the percentages for each individual time calculation you are double-counting those weekends. The solution is to “back out” the time that would be double-counted, so that it is only counted once. For those six summer weeks, the weekend time would be 6*48=288 hours. 288 divided by 8,760 hours in a year is 3%. Your actual timeshare for the year-round weekends and the summer would be 40-3=37%.

If this seems like more math is required than you’d like to encounter in your daily life, never fear! A local Borton Petrini family law attorney can help you navigate your custody, visitation and support issues, so you can get back to being a parent. Contact your nearest Borton Petrini office to schedule a consultation.




Kristen McDonald is an attorney in our Bakersfield office of Borton Petrini and practices in Family Law and Civil Litigation.



Legal Disclaimer: This article is designed for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.