Issues related to child custody represent some of the most emotionally contentious and legally complex aspect of divorce and paternity proceedings. As a consequence, a person facing this type of legal matter is best served by having a basic understanding of the essential elements of child custody issues that can arise in divorce proceedings.
In addition to understanding the essential elements of child custody itself, a parent must also have a grasp of the issues surrounding what is now called “parenting time” in a majority of jurisdictions in the United States today. The concept of parenting time replaces what historically was known as visitation. Indeed, despite the implementation of parenting time concepts over two decades ago in many locations, a significant number of people still refer to visitation.
Overview of Parenting Time
Both visitation and parenting time address ensuring that the noncustodial parent has appropriate access to and time with the minor child born of the relationship.
The movement to parenting time was made in large part because the noncustodial parent should not be deemed to be a mere visitor in the life of his or her child. The noncustodial parent must be able to develop a full and meaningful relationship with the child, which is facilitated through reasonable and regular time spent with that minor.
Scheduling Reasonable and Regular Parenting Time
Courts generally encourage parents to attempt to develop their own parenting time arrangements. Reasonable and regular parenting time requires an examination of the needs of the child as well as the objective of ensuring that both parents develop and maintain a solid relationship with that child.
Courts have developed guidelines to assist parents in attempting to develop a parenting time schedule through negotiation on their own. In addition, these guidelines are used by courts to establish a parenting time schedule when the parties to a case are not able to do so on their own.
Keep in mind that if parents cannot come up with a parenting time schedule on their own, a growing number of courts make experienced, professional mediators available to assist in the process if necessary. Through mediation, parties to a custody and parenting time case oftentimes are able to avoid protracted and unpleasant litigation to address issues associated with their children.