Protecting Your Custody Rights and Creating a Parenting Plan
Your divorce lawyer has told you that no one wins or loses in child custody cases; your lawyer has also said that both parents have custody of the children, and each parent gets X number of days of parenting time per year. While your lawyer is right, this does not change the fact that your ex-spouse is trying to stop you from spending as much time with your children as you want to spend with them and is making you jump through a lot of hoops to see them at all. Perhaps your ex insists that you drive a long distance to pick your children up from school on Friday afternoons and drop them off at your ex-house on Sunday evenings. Maybe your ex is even asking you to accompany your children or airline flights at the beginning and end of each period of parenting time and to pay for all the plane tickets. Not only do you, as a parent, have a legal right to spend time with your minor children and to make decisions about their upbringing, but you also have the right to a court-ordered parenting plan that is fair to you and your children. A Tempe family law attorney can help you persuade the court to issue a parenting plan that does not turn having a relationship with your children into an uphill battle.
When Does the Judge Get to Decide on Child Custody and a Parenting Plan?
If you are in the middle of a contentious divorce, you might worry that your ex-spouse will say all kinds of terrible things about you to the judge, and the judge will award you minimal parenting time, your fears are probably unfounded. Judges only decide the terms of parenting plans in cases that go to trial. Most divorce cases do not go to trial, even when the parties have minor children and can find little common ground. Mediation is also a prerequisite to trial in child custody cases where the child’s parents were never legally married. There is a strong possibility that you and your ex can agree to the terms of a parenting plan during mediation, and the judge will simply sign off on it. If you and your ex cannot stand to be in the same room together, let your lawyers do the talking.
How Do Judges Make Decisions About Parenting Time?
Judges based parenting plans on the children’s best interests. While it is not possible to reduce a child’s best interests to a mathematical formula, the judge’s decisions are not entirely subjective. Arizona law lists more than a dozen factors that judges may consider when determining a child’s best interest. These are some factors they may consider:
How much each parent encourages the child to have a good relationship with the other parent
Which parent has been more involved with the child’s schooling and daily care
Continuity, meaning avoiding the need for the child to change schools or residences because of the parenting plan
Whether either parent has ever endangered the child’s physical safety, such as by leaving the children unsupervised or using illegal drugs in the presence of the children
A teenager’s reasonable preference for a parenting schedule that is conducive to the teen’s school or work obligations and emotional wellbeing
The courts may not consider gender as a factor. Fathers do not automatically get less parenting time. Likewise, courts do not automatically decide that sons should live with Dad and daughters should live with Mom.
How to Get the Parenting Plan You Want
The best way to get the parenting plan you want is to check your emotions at the door, as hard as it sounds. Acknowledge that your children have the right to spend time with both parents. Talk things over with your lawyer to decide on a reasonable and realistic set of requests. Your lawyer can help you describe the reasons that it makes sense for your children to live with you on weeknights (or whatever days you are requesting) and can help you think of ways to support your claims. Saying bad things about your ex during mediation or in the presence of your children will only make it harder to get the parenting plan you want.
Contact Singular Law Group About Parenting Time Disputes
A family law attorney can help you finalize your parenting plan during mediation so that parenting time remains your decision instead of the judge’s.Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona, to set up a consultation. A Tempe family law attorney can help you set the terms of your parenting plan during divorce mediation or at trial.