The Ackerman Plan, invented by Dr. Mark J. Ackerman, has many advantages. While giving the family a nearly 50/50 split and a sense of home with each parent, this plan minimizes the number of weekly transitions. It also gives the parent with nonprimary placement (custody) during the school year an opportunity to be a “real” parent with school day responsibilities.
The Ackerman Plan is based on the alternating weekend plans. The weekend, here, consists of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and such an alternating weekend plan would be called an 11/3 plan. Out of the two-week (14-day) period, the child spends 11 days with one parent and 3 with the other one. The Ackerman plan adds two Thursdays to the alternating weekend during the school year thus creating a 9/5 plan. During the vacations, the primary placement is flipped, and only one (alternating) Thursday is added to the alternating weekend to create a 10/4 plan.
Alternating plans can be confusing to parents and even worse for children. For example, a plan where the child is spending Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with on parent and Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday with another parent requires the child to move far too often. The Ackerman plan allows the child to have the primary placement (custody) for a long time with each parent. One parent will have the primary placement during the school year. The other parent will have primary placement during the vacations—the summer vacation, the Spring Break, the week of Thanksgiving, and the Christmas vacation. This is long enough for the child to experience having a home with each parent.
With the Ackerman Plan, during the nine months of school—September 1 to May 31, the child is with Parent A 9 out of 14 days (primary placement). During the same period, the child is with Parent B 5 out of 14 days (nonprimary placement). During the vacations, the placement is reversed. Vacations include 3 summer months (June 1 to August 31), the week of Spring Break, the week of Thanksgiving, and two weeks of Christmas Break. During the vacations, the child is with Parent B 10 out of 14 days (primary placement) and with Parent A 4 out of 14 days (nonprimary placement). This plan can be also understood as a 9/5-10/4 flip-flop plan. The precise split is 53% to Parent A and 47% to Parent B.
Usually, the parent who only has the alternating weekends becomes the Disneyland parent—doing only fun things and having no responsibilities. In the Ackerman plan, this is avoided during the school year with the 9/5 plan. The parent with the nonprimary placement who has the alternating weekends also has each Thursday. This allows this parent to be a “real” parent who helps the child with homework on Thursdays, provides discipline, and has an opportunity to take the child to an after-school extracurricular activity on that day. In fact, in the Ackerman plan, parents do not have to rely on each other to take the child to the after-school activities. The child is with Parent A every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and with Parent B every Thursday.
Looking at the plan superficially, one might assume that Parent A (vacations 10/4 primary) has the child for all the holidays. In fact, Parent B (school year 9/5 primary) has the child four days during the breaks—for four days out of the two weeks at Christmas and for two days each at Thanksgiving and Easter.
When looking at which parent should serve as the primary placement for the child during the school year, the parents should consider which parent is best capable of supporting the child’s academic efforts and is more available to help with homework.