When filing for divorce and navigating the complex family court system, we understand that parents have the important goal of putting their children first. However, it is often difficult for parents to make informed decisions on what is best for their children. It is our goal to lower the stress involved with the custody process and help parents obtain orders that provide a realistic, safe and tranquil transition of their children between households. Here are some tips we like to use when crafting custody orders for parents.
California Child Custody
First, in California, custody is to be determined on a “best interest of the child” standard. Research indicates that children do best when parents are kind and cordial to each other, don’t interfere with the other parent’s visitation, and maintain a predictable schedule, among other things. Research is also clear that parents can easily cause harm to children by fighting in front of them, or using them to carry hostile messages to the other parent. Custody orders by the court or agreements between parents should be made with these considerations in mind.
Parents should also share with their attorney or the court the unique characteristics of their family. For example, it’s helpful for the parties to provide background on each parent’s relationship with each child, each parent’s ability to work with and communicate with the other parent, the child’s closeness with each parent, the child’s ability to handle transitions, and logistics regarding schedule and distance between the parents’ households. Of course, the court will also consider any level of conflict between the parents, especially because violence will contribute to a child’s emotional insecurity.
One aspect of creating a custody schedule that is also very important to most parents is vacation and holiday time. Holidays generally take precedence over the regular schedule, and include both religious and non-religious holidays. Parents should try honoring family holiday traditions in order to maintain consistency for the children. If parents have an alternating schedule and a holiday for one parent does not fall during their regular schedule, then parents should consider swapping that day or weekend to maintain the timeshare schedule.
Parents should also be able to have uninterrupted vacation time with their children. However, for children ages 0-2, vacation time should be consistent with the parenting time schedule for children. Vacation for young children (under age 5) should depend on the age and temperament of the child, and should not interfere with the other parent’s holiday time. For older teens, parents should plan their vacations around the teen’s schedule, especially if they have a job, extra-curricular activities or sports to attend. If extensive travel is involved, a full itinerary including flights, destination, and contact information should be provided to the other parent well in advance of the trip.
These common formalities when drafting a custody schedule go a long way in reducing stress and making this transitional time for the children much easier to bear. For more information on ensuring your children benefit from a well-drafted custody schedule, download the “Child Centered Residential Guidelines” published by the American Academy for Matrimonial Lawyers. Also consider calling Cage & Miles, LLP to speak with an experienced attorney about maintaining your children’s best interest throughout the divorce process.