5 Tips for Determining Custody and Parent Time
When determining custody and parent time, it’s important to consider the best interest of the child. Above all, the well-being of a child is the priority and will be considered when reaching custody agreements and visitation rights. It is meant to protect the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of a child, placing them in the care of a parent or guardian who can provide the best possible environment and upbringing.
Not only should their best interests be your top priority, but it is also a standard used by judges if a custody agreement cannot be reached. A Pacific Northwest family lawyer can help you look at the actions typically considered most beneficial to a child. Read on to learn how to determine custody arrangement and scheduling for parent time, and how it benefits each child so they can receive the best possible upbringing.
1. Develop a Parenting Plan Proposal
“Parenting time” is simply a written agreement on how much time each parent spends with the child, as well as how decisions are to be made for their welfare and education. It is also referred to as a “custody and visitation agreement” or a “time-share” plan. When determining parenting time, it’s important to honestly assess if each parent is fit to provide for the child’s welfare. If so, then a fair schedule accommodating both parents is preferred. The exception is if one parent is unfit and there is good cause to deny visitation. Otherwise, judges look more favorably on parenting time that does not deny visitation or make it difficult for the other parent.
If you can negotiate with the other parent, you can create a proposal that has a balanced and fair plan for time with each parent. Take care to create a plan that is not drastically different from their current schedule, making the transition easier. Remember, as a child ages, the plan will have to change to accommodate their changing needs. If a child is hesitant in spending time with one parent, create a schedule that eases them into spending more time with them.
Include basics such as healthy diet, medical care, proper rest, provisions for holidays, as well as who is in charge of transporting them to activities. It should also include which decisions can be made individually and which need to be made in agreement between both parents. Online resources can help guide you through the process.
2. Track Parenting Time and Related Expenses
Once you have a schedule, keep track of how much time you spend with your child. The court tends to favor the parent who spends the most time with the child. However, if you are proven to be fit and the other parent is blocking your visitation, this documentation can be used as proof of unfair limitations.
Make sure to also keep track of all expenses with receipts of childcare, school supplies, doctor visits, clothing, and other related expenses. This can better illustrate how you contribute to the well-being and care of your child.
3. Create a Safe Space
Creating a stable home for your child is essential to their best interest and well-being. A safe home where your child is comfortable and can thrive helps ensure their physical, mental, and emotional needs are being met. A stable home makes it easier for a child to receive proper rest and creates an environment where they can focus on social and educational development. A safe space also allows your child to speak truthfully about how they are coping with a divorce or separation, without repercussions.
When creating a stable environment, take care to have reliable childcare while at work or during other engagements. This can influence a judge’s decision when determining custody or visitation.
4. Understand the Best Interests of the Child
Each state has a different checklist for figuring the best interest of the child. Contact a Pacific Northwest family law attorney to learn how your state determines the best interests of the child.
Does the judge consider the child’s preference? Does the court disregard socioeconomic background or gender? Can the court task a guardian ad litem to conduct an investigation to figure out the best parenting arrangement?
Though each state varies, some common factors in figuring the best interest of the child include:
- Parental fitness
- The parent-child relationship
- Age of the child
- Who has been the primary caretaker
- The mental and physical health needs of the child
- A parent’s history of crime, violence, substance abuse
- Any suspected child neglect, abandonment, or abuse
- Provision of stability for the child
You can also demonstrate you have their best interest in mind by knowing what they like and dislike, as well as their personal interests. Do you know their favorite food, activities, who their friends are, what they struggle with? How well do you know your child can determine custody and visitation rights?
5. Be Willing to Co-Parent
If both parents are fit, then your child benefits most from having both parents in their life. In this scenario, it’s best to co-parent. It will benefit your child and reflect favorably with the judge when determining custody and parenting time.
If the other parent is not fit or they are keeping you from seeing your child, it’s important to document these instances and provide as much supporting evidence as possible. If the other parent is unfit and a danger to your child, you need strong evidence supporting this claim. Do not make false accusations. If you are fit but are being denied visitation, keep a written record detailing the times they denied or limited your visitation.
When it comes to custody and parenting time, it may be in both your and your child’s best interest to partner with a family law attorney, seeking counsel and representation.
Let our attorneys at Warren Allen LLP help you. Our experienced family law lawyers handle each case personally and have extensive knowledge in all legal situations related to domestic relations. Contact us today and learn how we can help your unique needs with solid legal advice and representation.