“The final test of a people, is the respect they have for law.” – Lewis F. Korns
Simply put, there is nothing more important in life than our children. Therefore, there is nothing more important than the court’s determination regarding time-sharing, and parental responsibility. Time-sharing (formerly known as custody) is the amount of time the child or children spend with each parent. Contrary to popular belief, there is no presumption in favor of either the mother or father, nor is there any presumption that equal time-sharing is in the child’s best interest. This is why time-sharing is the most contested issue in almost all divorce and paternity cases. Parental responsibility means the ability to make important decisions in your child’s life. Parental responsibility can be shared, which means both parents have an equal say in those decisions. Parental responsibility can also be sole, which means that only one of the two parents will make those important decisions. In making these most important decisions, the courts will look at the following:
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child
relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as
opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and
experience to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have an attorney who is skilled in both the complexities of the Rules of Evidence, the Rules of Procedure, as well as intricacies of Family Law to guarantee that the court receives the information it needs to make the right decisions for your child.
Modifications of Court Orders
Surprisingly to many, court orders are not necessarily the last word. If you find yourself in a situation where your current orders are a detriment or inconvenience to your life, you can seek fairness through “modification of court orders.” To affect this modification of original court orders, you may need to cite often serious or life-changing circumstances concisely and convincingly. Importantly, it does not necessarily need to be your circumstances that have changed. If, for instance, your former spouse’s pay increases dramatically, you may be able to stop or reduce child support payments or alimony making your life more comfortable. Come talk to us or give us a call, we can sort out all the particulars for you with clarity.