Parenting time is often one of the most contentious of family law issues, so understanding state law is imperative. A key factor in this is understanding the child’s “best interests” and how the court will decide upon the allocation of parenting time.
In some cases, the parents will come together on their own and agree to a parenting plan. This can happen in situations in which the parents are on amicable terms. However, some parents are unable to see past their issues or have concerns regarding the parenting time, and it is necessary for the court to decide how it will be allocated. There are various factors that the court will consider. The parents will undoubtedly have desires regarding parenting time – this will be weighed. The child might be of sufficient maturity to contribute to the decision. Parents will often have a certain amount of time they spend caring for the child – the previous 24 months before the filing will be factored in with parental responsibilities. If the child is under 2-years-old, the amount of time spent caring for the child since birth will be considered.
The child will have interactions and relationships with parents and siblings or others who can influence the child’s best interests. It will be necessary for the child to adjust to his or her new surroundings, including schooling and the community. There are often deviations in the mental and physical health of those involved – this will be important. The child’s needs must be met. There could be a significant distance in the locations where the parents live and accompanying issues with travel based on schedules, work and other circumstances.
Some parents need to be restricted in the amount of visitation time they have. If there is a threat to the child’s safety or a dispute including such threats between the parents, this will affect the court’s decision. If the situation does not have extenuating circumstances, the parents will be encouraged to allow a close relationship between the child and the other parent. A parent’s military status can have an influence on the visitation order. The court can examine any issue and use it to assist in determining visitation rights.
The allocation of parental responsibilities can be one of the most difficult parts of a divorce. Understanding how the courts assess the child’s best interests when deciding on visitation orders is critical.