This page covers the two main parts of OPTIMAL that people use the most. Please take a moment to read this page all the way through; it'll save you a lot of time and get you off to a quick start.
OPTIMAL is an online tool that lets you track parenting time and (optionally) keep detailed notes about that parenting time. The two main parts or screens in OPTIMAL are the Calendar and the Tracker. Here's how they're used:
- You make a copy of your parenting plan in the Calendar (this is your "scheduled" time).
- Time spent with your children is recorded as parenting time in the Tracker (this is your "actual" time)
OPTIMAL compares the scheduled and actual times, calculates the difference (if any), and displays information on how much parenting time you're getting (or missing).
Now that you know what the Calendar and the Tracker do, let's get started.
Step 1: Set up your parenting schedule in the Calendar
As mentioned above, we'll need to use the Calendar to set up a copy of your parenting plan or schedule. (Normally you only need to do this once, when you first start using OPTIMAL.) The schedule you make in the Calendar should mirror the parenting plan schedule that you received from the court as closely as possible. (If you don't have a parenting plan yet, enter whatever schedule or arrangement you're currently using.)
For example, your parenting plan may specify an every-other-weekend schedule plus one weeknight each week. A schedule like this can be created in about 5 minutes using the repeating event options in the Calendar.
When you create your parenting schedule in the Calendar, make sure you remember to mark the events as a Parenting Plan Event .
We have some easy-to-follow examples for most of the typical schedule types you'll need to use (alternating weekends, 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends, etc), and we'll also be glad to help you if you need assistance- just call us or send us an email through our contact form. For your convenience we've listed a few typical schedule examples below:
Step 2: Add your children's names to the Child List
Once you have the parenting plan schedule set up in the Calendar, add your children's names to the Child List. To do this, go to the Settings screen and click on the Children tab.
Add a child by typing the child's name into the Add a child text box. Use the pop-up calendar to enter their birth date, then click the Save settings button.
Step 3: Start tracking time in the Tracker
We need to take a moment here to explain a little bit about the Tracker and how it works. The Tracker has two parts that you'll use, Time Tracking and Note Keeping. The Time Tracking screen is also called the "Tracker Timeline". The Time Tracking screen looks like this:
The Time Tracking screen
This screen is where you record the actual time that the children are with you or under your care. This is important, so we'll say it again: only record the time that the children are with you or under your care. Don't log any time that the children spend with the other parent. If you do, the statistics that OPTIMAL creates for you will be wrong.
To record your parenting time just set the Start and End times and dates to show the full block of time that the children were with you. For example, if the children were with you from January 5th at 3:00pm until January 10th at 5:00pm, set the Start time and date to "3:00pm January 5th", and the End time and date to "5:00pm January 10th". Click the "Save this record" button, and you're done- you've just recorded some parenting time.
You can also optionally mark the time that the children aren't with either parent (such as when they're in daycare or school). This is called "Non-Parental Time". For a complete description of using NP Time, please view these pages: What is 'NP Time'? and Why should I enter Non-Parental time? .
The Note Keeping area (also called Tracker Notes) is where you enter notes and details about things that concern your parenting time. The Tracker Notes screen looks like this:
Tracker Notes Screen
You can make Notes on any day or days that you want, and you can also set optional icon "flags" (in the yellow boxes) to help mark important notes or events, or just to make a particular entry more visible.
OPTIMAL System Overview
The OPTIMAL system is very flexible, and lets you make notes in both the Calendar and the Tracker. Calendar notes can be just a simple note on any given day, or they can be attached to Calendar events.
For a more complete explanation of the differences between making Time Tracker entries and Tracker notes, please view this page: Tracker Notes vs Tracker Timeline .
For a step-by-step walk-through on tracking parenting time, please view this page: Entering parenting time in the Tracker .
We hope this Getting Started Guide has helped to familiarize you with the main parts of OPTIMAL and how it works. As always, if you have questions or or need some assistance using OPTIMAL, please feel free to contact us through our contact form.