When you are in the middle of a breakup or divorce, your number one concern might be child custody: Where will your child live, who will be responsible for day-to-day care? Establishing parenting time, particularly if you are not getting along well with your ex, can be overwhelming. This article has included a parenting time checklist of the fundamentals for developing a solid, well-rounded, child-centered parenting time schedule for winning at co-parenting!
Make a List of Parenting Excels
You might not be seeing your ex through the rosiest of glasses right now, but there are likely things that they have done as a good parent if you think about it. In some cases, such as when a parent has been abusive or neglectful, there will not be redeeming qualities – this is something to discuss with your legal counsel.
Start by making a list of all the parenting-related things you and your ex are good at. Maybe you provide most child care, but your ex gives baths each night and is a bedtime routine superhero. Or maybe your ex handles the day-to-day, but you coach your child’s soccer team and throw birthday parties. This will help when it comes to deciding who will be doing what later down the road.
Identify Pragmatic Considerations in Co-Parenting
You might want to have your child living with you full-time, but that is not realistic now if you work very long hours. Or maybe your ex will need to stay with a family member and sleep on the couch. That is another consideration: will he or she be able to provide a safe and secure place for your child each night?
When a couple splits, they go from maintaining one household to two, and that will often take some juggling when it comes to working schedules. It can also leave one or both parents in a financial bind. In this case, you will need to agree that the child will only spend one night per week with one parent who might not be living in a private environment.
Or maybe if you work long hours, your ex will be the one to have your child most evenings. You might be able to pick up your child in the morning to give them breakfast and take them to school. Whether or not you get along with your ex, realize that the two of you will need to consistently go over these types of issues and work together to solve them.
Develop a Parenting Time Schedule
Once you have these lists made, it is time to sit down with your ex and work out your parenting time schedule. This is where you will decide who will have your child on which days, who will be responsible for transportation, who, etc. There will be things on the plan that both of you can agree to without arguing.
For example, if you are a heterosexual couple, it is generally agreed that the child will spend Father’s Day with dad and Mother’s Day with mom. There will also be things that you will not compromise on. This is normal. Put together as much of the plan as you can that you agree on, perhaps with some negotiations.
For the items that you cannot agree on, you might need a third party to help you figure out. First, try giving it some time to think of solutions that the other party might agree to. If that doesn’t work, mediation or a family counselor might help you each to give a little bit for your child’s best interest.
If that does not help, it might be time to let a judge decide. Each of you might elect to get an attorney, but that is very expensive. If you cannot afford that or if you would like to try representing yourself, consider seeking help and guidance from a legal advocacy group or organization.
Consider Extenuating Circumstances
There are some cases where working together to create a parenting time schedule will not work out. This might be when a parent has been abusive, either to the child or to others in the home, including to you. This situation should be brought to a judge’s attention right away because it could be unsafe for your child to be with that parent.
Be aware that you should never make accusations of abuse lightly when it comes to child custody; a judge will not look kindly upon exaggerations or outright lies. But if you feel that your child could be in danger, then asking for an emergency custody order is appropriate.
Another dicey situation could be if your ex has a severe and untreated mental illness or an active substance addiction. Again, this can put your child at risk and should be discussed with legal counsel as soon as possible. If a parent is moving out of state, this will also affect custody.
While many divorcing families have the children go back and forth to each parent’s home for a week, this is impossible if you live several hours apart. In this case, you will need to decide who will be the primary custodial parent and what child visitation will look like. Can the child take an airplane or train alone?
Who will be responsible for providing transportation? Will the parent who moved come back to visit with the child during school breaks, or will the child always need to go to them? Do not be afraid to hash this out. Figuring out custody issues can seem overwhelming, but you will be a step ahead of the game by following the steps outlined above.
Whether you need help developing a legally-sound parenting time schedule and plan or to have an upcoming child custody court hearing and would like to learn about the legal options available to you and specific to your case, contact Family Law Legal Group to speak with one of our dedicated family law specialists today.