Child Custody and Visitation
putting the needs of the children first
Every parent wants the best for their children in terms of guidance, care, emotional support as well as lifestyle. This is true whether the parents are married or not. It is impossible to put a price tag on ensuring that our children will be safe, happy, and cared for after a divorce.
When parents are feeling loss and guilt because they are no longer together for the children, it is often difficult to sort out what is truly in the best interest of the children versus how the parties want to move forward separately. When parents are trying to balance the emotional and financial concerns they have about their post-divorce parenting, it helps to have an experienced support team to sort things out.
Some common concerns prior to divorce expressed by divorcing parents:
- Will I be able to spend enough time with my kids?
- Will my children suffer as a result of the divorce?
- What about holidays, birthdays, and vacations?
- Will my spouse and I be able to agree on parenting going forward?
- What happens down the road, when things change?
The manner and frequency of one parent’s time with their children will change over time, based on a range of real-life things like school schedules, the child’s extra-curricular interests, and changes with each parent’s job, just to name a few. Even if things are settled and stay the same for awhile, changes are inevitable. The more difficult those changes are for the parents to understand and accept, the more difficult things are on the children.
Divorce Is Not Just About Legalities
The one thing many parents have to confront from the beginning is coming to terms with what is best for the children versus what is fair. Specifically, what is fair for the adults isn’t always best for the children. Another concern is whether the children will be negatively affected by the divorce. For example, it isn’t unusual for one parent to retain ownership of the family home in an attempt to minimize the impact of the divorce on the children. These concerns, among others, can compel a parent to seek a resolution that is neither wise or useful.
We encourage parents to use the services of experienced professionals and specialists like divorce coaches and child specialists, when necessary. While we can offer crucial experience and advice regarding what is appropriate and legal in parenting plans, what works for one family doesn’t always work for another. Every parenting situation is unique. An experienced divorce coach is more effective and far less expensive when it comes to helping parents adjust to the changes. An experienced child specialist can help a parent identify how best to care for the children post divorce and be an engaged parent of a happy, well-adjusted child.
The combination of experienced attorney, mediator and child specialist means that parents can individually understand what they can expect after the divorce while working through their emotions and coming to terms with what really is best for the children versus their own needs.
How We Help Parents Through Divorce
As if deciding on an appropriate parenting plan isn’t enough, establishing an appropriate support agreement adds to the complexity. Some parents confuse parenting time with the level of child support, but those are entirely separate agreements. Our clients usually find that our clear explanation of the support calculation guidelines is very helpful for understanding child support decisions versus parenting plans. With that understanding established, parents are better able to efficiently address critical issues.
Legal Vs. Physical Custody
There are two kinds of child custody: legal and physical. Legal custody determines how parents make decisions regarding the child’s healthcare, education, welfare, etc. Physical custody determines how parents share custodial time with children.
Joint Legal Custody requires parents to consult with each other before making significant decisions in a child’s life. Sole Legal Custody allows one parent to make these decisions, but also allows the other parent access to certain information regarding the health and educational of the child. Most parents share Joint Legal Custody unless there is a history that demonstrates an inability to reach agreements in the child’s best interests.
Joint Physical Custody is defined as a parenting plan that includes substantial periods of time with both parents. Notice this is not necessarily “50/50”. Sole Physical Custody is defined as a custodial time share in which one parent has the majority of physical custody, but the other parent will have Reasonable Visitation. There is no bright line test for when a shorter period of custodial time under a Joint Physical Custody plan becomes “visitation.”
It is always better to focus on a custodial arrangement that is in the child’s best interests rather than to be concerned about the label or the “percentage of time.” The label being used (i.e., joint physical custody or sole physical custody) has little legal significance in most cases. The one area in which the label may be significant is when we are considering what the parent plan should be in the event one parent wishes to live somewhere new and that move would disrupt the current custodial schedule. However, even in the “move away” situation the label is not dis-positive.
Legal issues involving your child can be an emotionally draining and sometimes can be very complicated, requiring assistance of an experienced attorney. You do not have to do this alone. We are here to help you every step of the way!