(US family law and divorce generally)
Custody Should Adapt to a Child’s Changes:
Divorces in the 21st century always include a parenting plan if there are children involved. Some parents share parenting almost equally, and some utilize a week-day/week-end schedule to keep the kids going to the same schools no matter which parent has visitation. Parents who live states apart can enact a parenting plan where one parent has the kids during the school year and the other has the children during summer vacation.
No parenting plan is ideal, because “ideal,” to a child, would be for the parents to be together. But this is the real world, which is a concept that all children will learn at some point in their upbringing. Parents, though, can do a great deal to keep pick-ups and drop-offs amenable and communication civil.
If divorced spouses can keep the lines of communication open, the children fare better. Married parents talk about their children all the time. If a divorced parent has a concern or just wants the ex-spouse to know something new about their child, he or she should be able to call the other parent. Keeping parenting the same in both homes is always better for the children.
Tender Years Doctrine:
Many states have, or are in the process of, eliminating the “tender years” doctrine. This means that instead of the presumption that it is always best for children to live with the mother, now both parents are being considered equally. This is a much fairer way to handle parenting options after divorce. Not only does it keep both parents more involved in the lives of their children, but it also levels the playing field for disputes over custody issues.
Best Interests of the Children:
In all states, crafting a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children is the primary consideration. It may be inconvenient for both parents, but the children should always come first. However, for many divorced parents, the children are caught in the crossfire of unresolved marital issues. With a concerted effort on the part of both parents, co-parenting can be accomplished after divorce without the insinuations, sabotage and veiled threats that some parents continue to remain embroiled in. Parents don’t have to like each other; they just have to act like they like each other.
If both parents are able to live within the boundaries of the school(s) that their children attend, there is little reason that parents can’t split their parenting time 50/50. In time, the children adjust to this and regard it as normal.
When a Child Decides:
A child’s needs change as he or she gets older. For instance, when a boy is 10 or 11, he may want to live with his father. Depending upon the parenting plan, this could actually involve only slight changes on the plan to allow the child to spend more time with his dad. But, if the dad lives out of state and sees the child only in the summer, the mother may not want to become the “summer” parent. In this event, the couple will have to work with the Court and a mediator to develop a new parenting plan.
In instances such as this, the judge may actually ask the child in chambers, away from his or her parents, to learn who the child wants to live with. The judge may also appoint a psychologist to meet with the child to discuss the issue. As long as it has been determined that the child hasn’t been coerced, there’s a good chance that the parenting plan will be revised to represent the child’s preference.
About the Author
This article was written by Karl Stockton for orlandodivorcehelp.com. If a family law issue arises, contact a family lawyer to receive legal assistance.