Guest post by Jennifer Caughey
Being confronted with a parenting plan for the first time comes as a shock to many divorcing parents. When you sit down to start capturing the logistics of your child’s life you start to realize the complexities, the nuances and the needs that make your child uniquely yours. Then to document these in a clearly written, unambiguous document for you and your ex to follow can seem impossible. In this guest post, Jennifer Caughey sets out 8 steps for determining your parenting schedule.
It wasn’t what she expected when she married her soon-to-be ex over 10 years ago, and it wasn’t what she had envisioned when she gave birth to her first son, followed 20 months later by her second son. She never thought that after 10 years she would now be spending her time trying to determine a visitation schedule. Now, she found herself sitting in front of a mediator arguing over who would have the kids when, and how their decisions would be made. Everything seemed to move in such rapid speed. One day, they were happy, then suddenly they were in marriage counseling. On one particularly cold winter evening, her then-husband announced he believed divorce was their best course of action. In the days that followed, as he packed his things and absconded to a sterile executive suite at an extended stay hotel, thoughts of child custody didn’t enter her mind, but now, sitting across from someone who knew nothing about them, about their marriage and subsequent divorce, a mediator that was laying out different types of custody.
This woman’s story is not uncommon. Millions of parents, both mothers and fathers, struggle with the end of a relationship or marriage and the logistics of child custody. Blindsiding, in many ways, it can be difficult to really think clearly about all of the different elements of divorce, especially when young children are involved. After all, as their you expect to have your child with you at all times. That is what you envisioned on the day you announced your expected child and the day you brought them home from the hospital. While it can be an emotional topic, the best way to come up with an equitable custody arrangement is to be well-informed.
What Types of Child Custody Arrangements Exist?
Each parenting relationship is different and unique, as are divorces. The type of child custody arrangement you work out with your ex will largely depend on your schedules, your unique skills and, potentially, your failings as well as what is age appropriate for your child. In most states, there is both legal and physical custody although the terminology differs for state to state. These are generally agreed upon first before moving onto the finer nuances of custody agreements, such as the type of access a parent has the right to, along with the “best interests” of the child.
Physical custody, simply put, is granted to the parent with whom the child lives for the majority of their time. For example, a parent who is granted the majority of the physical time may have primary or sole physical custody of the child. In these situations the custodial parent will parent the child for the majority of time, while the non-custodial parent will be granted parenting time and a visitation schedule. Joint physical custody may be granted. Joint physical custody means that the parents split parenting time equally, so the child will live with one parent for part of a week or month, and the other parent for another part of the week or month.
Legal custody is a bit more, clear cut. In most cases, joint legal custody is granted. This means that both parents must work together to agree upon decisions that are made in the interest of the child. For example, the child’s schooling, religion and medical decisions will be made with both parents working together. Sole legal custody may be granted if the parents cannot work together on these decisions, or if one parent is considered unfit.
The types of custody arrangements made in courts can vary widely, and a parent may be awarded sole custody of their child, or joint custody, whether that is joint legal custody, joint physical custody or joint physical and legal custody. While it was common for sole custody to be awarded in the past, courts are working harder than ever to work out joint custody agreements whenever possible, as it is thought to be in the best interest of the child to have both parents present in their lives, if both parents are fit to parent at that time.
Click the next page link to learn the 8 Steps to creating a visitation schedule