When it comes to family law and custody arrangements, determining a parenting time (sometimes referred to as visitation) schedule is critical to helping ensure children’s well-being while addressing parents’ rights and responsibilities. Parenting time schedules play a vital role in the lives of children whose parents are no longer romantically linked. They can help to provide structure and predictability, which can help children feel more secure even as they navigate back and forth between two households.
Moreover, visitation schedules help to ensure that both parents have the opportunity to maintain meaningful relationships with their children. Establishing a parenting time schedule that works for a family is a process that is influenced by various factors that consider the child’s best interests, the rights of both parents and the unique circumstances of each case.
Child’s age and developmental needs
Children of different ages have varying needs and capabilities. Parenting time schedules should be tailored to accommodate the child’s age, school schedule, extracurricular activities and developmental stage. Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their preferences may also be considered. While not determinative, the court may weigh the child’s wishes when creating a schedule in the event of a litigated custody process. An uncontested process will allow parents to craft a schedule without judicial intervention.
Parental availability and work schedules
The availability of both parents is another crucial factor. Work schedules, travel commitments and other obligations can impact the feasibility of specific arrangements. Flexibility is often key to creating a workable schedule. The geographical location of each parent’s residence can also significantly affect parenting time schedules. For example, proximity to the child’s school, extracurricular activities and the other parent’s home can influence the frequency and duration of a child’s time with each parent.
History of caregiving
In a contested situation, the court may also examine the history of caregiving to determine which parent has been the primary caregiver (if applicable) and the extent of their involvement in the child’s life. This can impact parenting time decisions. The courts also highly regard a willingness to cooperate and communicate with the other parent. Parents who demonstrate a commitment to working together in the child’s best interests are more likely to benefit from favorable scheduling decisions.
Determining a parenting time schedule is a complex process influenced by numerous factors. It is advisable for parents to seek legal counsel to help safeguard their interests and to better ensure a successful outcome.