Gone are the days when mom was always awarded custody of the children while dad had regular visitation and the right to pay child support. Today, the father is given the same consideration as the mother in making major decisions effecting a child’s growth and development. Effective in October of 2008, the law regarding parenting after divorce has made it a much more cooperative venture. The previous approach had one parent designated as the “primary residential parent” while the other—a designated secondary residential parent — This concept of parenting has been dramatically revised. Today, both parents have the opportunity to decide how they want to share their time with their children and share their responsibilities of child rearing by entering a Parenting Plan.
Shared parental responsibility means that both parents retain their rights to participate in the lives of their children and to share in all major decisions pertaining to their health, education, religious training, medical and dental care and relocation with them to another state. If the parents cannot agree, the court will decide one or all of the issues for them. In rare cases, a court can provide that one parent is to have “sole” parental responsibility and the right to decide all matters concerning health, education and welfare. The circumstances under which a court will do this are extreme and usually involve parental abuse, neglect, lack of interest or failure of a parent to look after a child’s general welfare.
The law now requires that parents create their own Parenting Plan, which outlines their preferences as to shared parental responsibilities and a comprehensive schedule for time sharing. “Time sharing” replaces “visitation” and aims for a more fluid and liberal way for the parents to enjoy the company of their children. The Parenting Plan is presented to the court for its approval. Parents are free to develop any shared parenting plan they desire so long as it gives due regard for the best interest of the child. If the parents can’t reach an agreement, the parties can have a trial and the Court will establish a Parenting Plan. For information you need to know see How to Win Your Child Custody Case written by firm partner, Kenneth E. Rhoden, Esq.
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Modifying Time Sharing
Whether arrived at through agreement or court order, Parenting Plans are modifiable. To modify a time sharing schedule, shared parental responsibilities, or the amount of child support, the petitioning party must establish that there has been a substantial change in circumstances which requires the court to revise its original judgment. The Court always considers what is in the child’s best interest.
The fact that the parties have not managed to get along at all since entry of the final judgment is not a substantial change in circumstances. But if a party fails to honor the time sharing plan such as sending the child to out-of-town family or friends when the other parent’s time sharing is to begin; interfering with telephone and other contacts with the child; denying previously agreed to changes on holidays or other special visitation dates; or failing to abide by the time sharing schedule can be a substantial change in circumstances.
Failure to honor the other parent’s time sharing rights can allow the court to do any or all of the following:
- Order additional time sharing as is convenient for the parent deprived of visitation
- Direct the noncompliant parent to pay the other’s attorneys’ fees and costs
- Require the obstructing parent to attend parenting classes
- Require the parent to pay the expenses incurred in visitation.
In extreme cases, the court can revise the timesharing schedule in a manner it deems fit or impose any other reasonable sanction on the noncompliant parent.
Significant changes in a parent’s mental health, decline in the stability or wholesomeness of his/her home environment, or engagement in a lifestyle that adversely affects or threatens the well-being of a child may all serve as a basis for modifying the time sharing schedule.
Modifying your time sharing agreement or court order can be complicated and requires a skilled attorney to present your situation to the court. With over 100 years combined experience our attorneys can help you, call for your free consultation (321) 631-0506.