When a married couple with children decides to get divorced, one of the first questions that come up will often be about parenting time. Who gets the kid(s) when, will there be a “primary” parent, and what happens if I want to change the arrangement?
Of course, every family is different, and every case is different. The best thing you can do going into a divorce case with children is to hire an experienced attorney who has worked on cases like yours.
That said, here is an idea of the kinds of considerations you might expect to encounter in the divorce process.
Forget the Word “Custody”
In the State of Colorado, the term “custody” is no longer used as it is deemed antagonistic and politically incorrect. Now, what was once referred to as “custody” is called “parental responsibility.”
Parental responsibilities are divided into three categories: decision-making (where will the child go to school?), parenting time (where will the child spend time and with whom?) and child support (who will pay for financial obligations with regard to the child or children?).
When someone is getting divorced, they often don’t fully grasp these three aspects of parental responsibilities as defined by the state; understanding what the responsibility encompasses is the first step to creating a plan that works in the best favor of the child or children.
The Combinations are Endless
As I mentioned before, every family is different and the needs of the child or children will vary greatly from case to case.
Factors that influence the Court may be age(s) of the child or children, time spent with each parent before the divorce, the location of each parent with regards to safety and proximity to the school(s), financial stability and so on.
Age is an important consideration. An infant is too young for an overnight stay at the secondary parent’s home and will live with the primary parent until the child matures enough to be able to handle an overnight stay with the second parent.
The Arizona Supreme Court recently commissioned a study on parenting time in the case of divorce. On page 24, the study indicates that if the parental parties had previously cared for the child equally, both know how to care for the child on an overnight stay, and live close enough as to prevent long commutes from one house to the other, then the earliest age for an overnight stay at the secondary parent’s home is 10 months.
As the child grows older, the Court will continue to re-evaluate the case to determine what the child can handle with regards to overnights. Eventually, if the conditions are right, the child may end up in a situation when he or she is splitting time 50/50.
There are many factors that can influence whether or not a 50/50 split is the right choice, which is why legal representation is strongly advised.
The key element is always going to be what’s in the best interests of the child or children. What the parent wants is irrelevant.
Making Changes to the Parenting Schedule
Once the Court determines the schedule, making changes may or may not be a complicated process, and all three legs of parenting responsibilities will be considered (decision-making, parenting time, and child support).
If you’re trying to shift away from joint decision-making so that one parent has all the power to make important decisions, there will be a pretty high burden of proof in doing so. Essentially, in this case, you must show that the present situation endangers the child either physically or emotionally.
However, it is much easier to shift from sole decision-making to joint decision-making, especially if both parents have fulfilled their responsibilities in caring for the child up until this point.
As far as making adjustments to parenting time, the reasoning must always be that the changes are in the best interest of the child. Depending on the change requests, it may be a simple matter in the eyes of the Court.
Are you preparing for divorce, or getting ready to work out a parenting responsibility schedule? It’s always better to have an attorney representing your case. Call our office today at (720) 999-9506 to set up a free consultation.