The Parenting axiom is: children are best served by enjoying frequent, ongoing and substantial contact with both parents.
The best Parenting Plans recognize this, and enlightened, though now separated parents are able to relegate their, perhaps justified, feelings of moral, material or parenting skill superiority in favor of a Child’s need for the continued love and influence of both parents.
The concepts of Child Custody and Visitation are fading in favor of the notions of Co-Parenting, Parenting Plans, Parenting Schedules and designation of a Child’s Principal Physical Residence. These changes reflect a shift in policy, from something akin to a parent having what amounts to a property interest in a Child to the more modern view that encouraging a Child’s healthy development is each parent’s paramount duty.
Beginning in perhaps middle school years, Children should have an advancing role in deciding where and with whom they live.
By age 16 or 17, generally the age of consent, it may well be the Child’s independent choice.
Flexibility is the hallmark of good Parenting. Children grow quickly, the circumstances of families change and Parenting arrangements appropriate for elementary school children become obsolete in teenaged years. Identifying transitions for age appropriate Parenting is, at best, in murky waters. With that said, Parenting Plans are properly, living documents; making changes reflecting inevitable and material changes but always with an eye towards advancing the interests of each Child.
What Does Shared Parenting Looks Like?
- Weekly Parenting Schedule (Pro Forma)
- Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
- Week 1 Mom Mom Dad Mom Dad Dad Dad
- Week 2 Dad Mom Dad Mom Dad Mom Mom
- Holiday and Vacation Parenting Time. Most Parenting Schedules simply alternate holidays and vacations.
How Long Should a Parenting Plan Continue?
Practically speaking, Parenting Orders conclude with each Child’s 18th birthday and even before then the ability of parents and Courts to control Children wanes as they advance through teenaged years. Teenaged Children get drivers’ licenses, jobs and their own money, and their friends and lives. The day comes on which each Child is just too big to lock in a car seat and made to obey a parent.
Beginning in perhaps middle school years, Children should have an advancing role in deciding where and with whom they live. By age 16 or 17, generally the age of consent, it may well be the Child’s independent choice.
- Shared Parenting Cannot Work. Sometimes, Shared Parenting arrangements cannot work and the Parenting Plan may revert to the classic formulation of Primary or Sole Physical Custody and, perhaps, Visitation for the out-of-custody parent. Watch for circumstances where the out-of-custody parent is not available to parent: a deployed service member, an incarcerated or just too far away parent are common examples. Less frequently, sometimes, two parents are just unable to cooperate and communicate sufficiently to share Parenting.
- Cases of Domestic Violence. Generally, these casesinvolve actionby the Department of Children and Families and/or the Court. Efforts will be made to: (1) ensure the safety of family members and (2) the best possible relationship between a parent and children. Expect an award of Primary Physical Custody to an innocent parent and Monitored Visitation for the offending parent.
- Move-Away Cases. In today’s more mobile society these have become common cases. The law of the Commonwealth generally forbids a parent from unilaterally removing Children from the Commonwealth without either an Agreement of the other parent or an Order of the applicable Probate and Family Court. Without an Agreement, the parent to be left behind is entitled to an evidentiary hearing asking how the proposed move will furnish the relocating parent a “real advantage” and be in the best interests of any Children.