It is always hard when a marriage starts to fall apart, but when there are kids involved, things get even more difficult. In most cases, both parents want to be active in their children’s lives and spend as much time with them as they can. Generally, the courts and the kids want that, too — especially if each parent had a strong relationship with the kids while the couple was still together. Setting a parenting schedule is among the most important decisions that will be made as part of divorce proceedings. When you set up your initial consultation, it will likely be one of the first topics of discussion.
Possibilities for Parenting and Visitation
In order to emphasize the importance of each parent taking responsibility for the upbringing of children, the courts rely less on the term “custody” and refer to the sharing of parenting time as the “allocation of parental rights and responsibilities.”
The Ohio courts have laid out several suggested schedules that parents can follow, based on the child’s age, maturity level, special needs, and attachment to each parent. These schedules also take into consideration the activities and commitments the child has undertaken, the parents’ ability to communicate with one another and cooperate with the schedule, cultural and religious issues, and the overall “fitness” of each parent, including whether there are concerns about abuse or the mental stability of either parent.
Some of the suggestions work better for parents who live in close proximity to one another, and some are designed to accommodate those who live in a relatively close town. The parents’ ability to communicate without conflict is a factor, as well. When tensions are especially high, parenting schedules are designed so that each parent picks up and drops off the kids at daycare, so that they don’t have to see one another during the switch. A divorce attorney can discuss possible scenarios. While there are many different options that the court suggests, parents are also able to suggest their own schedule, which may be a modification of one of the other suggestions.
Role of the Child’s Wishes
Who children want to live with and how much time they want to spend with the other parent plays a varying role depending on the ages and maturity levels of the children. Children are not asked to make their wishes known in the presence of either or both parents. Instead, each child will have an interview with the judge or magistrate in chambers.
Before children are asked any questions related to their living preferences, the judge will ask questions that are designed to determine their reasoning abilities; if their abilities are not sufficient, then they will not be asked any custody-related questions.
If a child does have adequate reasoning ability, the court looks at other factors to determine whether or not the child’s wishes are in line with his or her best interests. For example, some children will indicate a preference for the parent who is more lenient with the rules, or they may want to keep an eye on a parent with a substance abuse problem.
If a child has a good reason to prefer one parent over the other, the court will often agree that it is in the child’s best interest to spend the majority of his or her time in the care of that parent. In the end, though, it is the court that decides, not the child.
At Laubacher & Co, our Cleveland family law firm has helped many families work out parenting schedules that fit their lives and that will provide children with the consistency that they need. Developing a schedule early during the separation period helps children get used to a routine and to better cope with the actual divorce. To learn more about parenting schedules, and the other issues involved in a divorce, contact us to set up a consultation.