Child Custody & Time Sharing
When the parents of a minor child divorce or when unmarried parents live apart, family courts must address the issue of how much time the child will spend with each parent, generally referred to as child custody. The state has largely done away with the traditional notion of child custody in which one parent—usually the mother—is the primary custodial parent and the other parent has visitation rights. New laws do not use the terms “custody” or primary and secondary parents, but instead refers to “time-sharing” plans involving both parents. These plans can involve equal time-sharing or majority time-sharing, but the time-sharing system attempts to encourage quality relationships between the child and both parents.
Factors for Time-Sharing Determinations
Having an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with the new child time-sharing laws is important in any child custody case, as the law sets out specific factors a court must consider when approving or designing a time-sharing plan. These factors include the following:
- The ability and willingness of each parent to have a relationship with the child.
- The location of the child’s previous residence, community, and school in relation to the home of the other parent, and the feasibility of travel between the two.
- The physical and mental health of each parent.
- The moral fitness of each parent.
- Any history of domestic abuse or substance abuse involving either parent.
- The child’s preference, if he or she is mature enough to make that decision.
- Ability of the parents to communicate and share in the responsibilities of raising the child.
- Any special needs of the child and each parent’s ability to meet them.
- Any other factors that are relevant to determining what is in the best interests of the child.
An experienced attorney will be familiar with all of the relevant factors and will be able to present arguments on your behalf that you spending a substantial amount of time with your child is in their best interest.
Enforcement and Modification of Time-Sharing plans
If one parent refuses to comply with a court-ordered time-sharing plan, the other parent may request that the court enforce the order by awarding the denied parent extra time with the child, modifying the plan, by using contempt or sanctions against the refusing parent, and more.
Additionally, though a time-sharing plan may have been appropriate at the time of the divorce or original determination, circumstances may change and one or more parent may wish to seek a modification of a time-sharing plan. In order for a modification to be approved, a court must find that there has been an unanticipated, substantial, and material change of circumstances.
Contact a Child Time-Sharing Lawyer for Assistance with Your Case
Your relationship and time spent with your children is likely one of your top priorities. If you are facing a time-sharing case and want your rights protected, call an experienced family law attorney for help. An attorney will know how to approach this type of case in a manner that best supports your desire and fitness to be a quality parent and role model in your child’s life, so consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.