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Decision Making and Parenting Time

Reaching an Agreement about Decision Making and Parenting Time 

Consulting early on in a case may help a parent to prevent errors that result in loss of decision making and parenting time.

The law recently changed from determining who will have custody to who will have decision making in the areas of education, health care, religious instruction and personal care of a child.  Parents are being asked to consider the best interest of their child in regard to decision making and parenting time.  To work through their issues about decision making for their child, it may be helpful to consult with a counselor, someone who is experienced and educated in family therapy.  This often can be done free of charge through church organizations and family services.  In addition, many insurance plans provide counseling services as part of their covered benefits.  If counseling is not successful, then parents may want to consider attending mediation to discuss a decision-making arrangement and a schedule of parenting time that each parent will have with the child.  This way parents can share child care responsibilities and communicate their concerns about their separation and its affect on their children.

If parents find that they cannot enter into an agreement about custody and parenting time for their children, each parent should consult with an attorney of his or her choice.  The attorney can provide a client with basic information about joint and sole decision making and parenting time schedules that are often used in family court.  An attorney can also advise a parent about the impact of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and other parenting issues on the outcome of a custody dispute.  Many parents with patience, determination and intelligence will then represent themselves in advocating for either joint or sole decision making for  their child.  At the same time, they will have gained an awareness of the risk of losing decision making or parenting time to a spouse who is represented by an attorney.  Timing is essential:  consulting early on in a case may help a parent to prevent errors that result in loss of decision making and parenting time.

 An attorney should be able to explain all issues in a divorce, as well as the divorce process from the filing of the petition for dissolution until the final settlement or trial.  Communication and trust are essential to an attorney-client relationship.  He or she should also explain his billing rate, the costs, and the retainer or flat fee charged for a case.  In the alternative, should a parent choose to hire a document preparer and represent himself, he or she will want to have an attorney review the pleadings and give guidance to help advocate for the best interest of the child.

What is the standard-"best interest of the child"-used in a Modification of Decision Making and a Divorce Case?

• Which parent, if any, has been the primary caregiver

• The relationship between the child and the siblings and the child and the parent

• Any evidence of past child abuse or neglect

• Each parent's relationship to the child

• The wishes of the child as to where to live

• The child's ties to her peers, home and school

• Mental and physical wellbeing of the parents and the child

• Any evidence of past domestic violence in the household

• Which parent, if any, has been the primary caregiver

• Whether either parent has had any conviction for a drug/alcohol abuse, domestic violence, DUI or other offense involving minor children

• Whether there were unfair methods of coercion or duress used to obtain the original custody agreement

Child Custody & Children Matter

Co-parenting. It’s not a competition between two homes. It’s a collaboration of parents doing what is best for the kids.

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