Take Control Blog

Caring for Children After Divorce

With minor children, post-divorce arrangements and caring for children are most often a challenge; for both the children and the parents. To discuss this topic, I had a conversation with Crystal Roland, Esq. of the Merrick Park Law Center.

TBK: How are timesharing and parental responsibility determined?

ROLAND: The court must order shared parental responsibility unless the court makes specific, detailed findings supported by evidence that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental. Shared parental responsibility means that the parents confer regarding major decisions. Upon making the appropriate findings, the court may order sole parental responsibility over all or specific areas of the upbringing. Currently, there is no presumption for or against a specific timesharing plan with either parent, but instead the court considers multiple statutory factors in establishing what timesharing plan is in the best interest the children. Some of the factors the court will consider are, among others: 1) Ability of each parent to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship; honoring the timesharing schedule and being reasonable with changes; 2) Extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to others; 3) Ability of each parent to determine and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to their own; 4) Geographic viability of the plan; and 5) Reasonable preference of the minor children, if the children are of sufficient intelligence and experience to express a preference. Should the parties fail to reach an agreement approved by the court, the court will order a parenting plan that will award parental responsibility and timesharing.

TBK: What are the typical timesharing arrangements and factors to keep in mind when agreeing to such?

ROLAND: Parenting plans should structured, detailed, and drafted to meet the unique needs of the family and children. Typical factors to keep in mind for regular, non-holiday timesharing are: 1) The ages of the children and their needs in terms of school, activities, and any special needs (medical, emotional, social); 2) Parents’ work schedules; 3) Geographic distance between the parents in relation to schools and activity schedules; 4) How summer and holiday time will be spent; 5) When and where the exchange of the children takes place; 6) Communication times and methods for the non-timesharing parent to contact the children; 7) Acceptable travel outside of the United States; 8) Any other issues unique to the family or issues of importance for religious, cultural, moral or other reasons.

TBK: In today’s mobile society, where people move for jobs, how are parental responsibility and timesharing rights affected?

ROLAND: If a party with timesharing rights wishes to change their residence more than fifty miles, for at least sixty consecutive days, from their residence at the time of the last order or of filing, the party must petition the court for permission to relocate unless the parties reach an agreement. The sixty day period does not include a temporary absence for vacation, education, or the provision of health care. In such cases, the parties need to consider a parenting plan that addresses parental responsibility and timesharing post-relocation. In other words, distance alone usually does not translate into the non-relocating parent being unable to be involved in major decision-making. The parent physically with the children at any given time, regardless of distance, normally retains to right to make the day-to-day decisions relative to the needs of the children during their timesharing.