How does the court determine parenting time?
Again, a recent change in the law affects the court’s treatment of Parenting Time. Obviously the overriding factor in determining Parenting Time is the best interests of the child. That mandate has been in place for some time, however, the legislature in another change effective January 1, 2013 decided that when determining the issue of Parenting Time, the Court shall “ensure that the minor child has substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing contact” with both parents “unless the court finds after a hearing that Parenting Time would endanger the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.”
My experience has been that since the change in the law, the beginning point for most courts in determining Parenting Time is to divide the time between the parents equally. There are a number of different schedules that the court can consider for equal time. One schedule that is currently in vogue is commonly referred to as the two – five – five – two schedule. In this schedule one party gets Monday and Tuesday, the second party gets Wednesday and Thursday and the weekend period is alternated. Another schedule that the court may consider provides that each of the parents exercise parenting time three days one week and four days the next. Such factors as work schedules, travel schedules and the distance the parties live away from each other impact the schedule that works best for the parents and the child
Obviously, as set forth in the statute, there are exceptions to this beginning point of equal parenting time. The same factors that would justify limiting the party’s decision-making may also limit the party’s Parenting Time. Again, in a contested Parenting Time case, the court would consider evidence of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, spousal abuse and mental health issues in determining an appropriate Parenting Time schedule. If these issues affect the safety of the child, the court may even limit Parenting Time to be supervised until the parent addresses the limiting issues to ensure that the child is safe in his or her care. Every parent believes that the safety of their Children is paramount. If there are problems that limit the other party’s ability to properly supervise and protect the child, the facts supporting the problems need to be presented to the court in an organized and compelling fashion.
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