TIME SHARING MUST NOT BE VIEWED AS A PRIVILEGE TO BE EXERCISED AT THE WHIM OF THE PARENT, BUT AS A RESPONSIBILITY WHICH MUST BE FULFILLED ABSENT NECESSARY CAUSE. TIME SHARING IS FOR THE PRIMARY BENEFIT OF THE CHILD OR CHILDREN AND NOT THE PARENT.
Children should not be exposed to hostility or conflict between the parents. It is not appropriate for a child to be used to deliver messages between parents. Parents should arrange an alternative means of communicating by phone or email.
Determining parent access to children is one of the most difficult and problematic areas of divorce. It often contributes significantly to parent conflict and litigation.
Yet, there is a limited amount of empirical research on the most appropriate arrangements for children. There is no single time-sharing arrangement that has been determined to be optimal for all children. Thus caution is important in proposing a specific visitation arrangement.
The circumstances of each family are unique, however, and recognition of their unique circumstances is central to making good parenting choices.One size fits all” approaches to developing parenting arrangements are inappropriate and may be harmful to some families. It is NOT the purpose of the Courts to establish a single standard or “best” parenting arrangement.
Mediation is more effective in resolving issues concerning children when parties approach these issues from the perspective of satisfying the standard of what’s in the best interest of the children. This is so because the parties are more open to different solutions than would be the case if they took staunch positions regarding a set schedule, set activities, etc. Concentrating on their individual interests–in this case what is best for their child, which is a shared interest–results in the parties working together as opposed to against each other. This is good example of what mediating based on interests, as opposed to positions, can achieve, which is usually a workable agreement for both parties (and the children).
A parenting plan is an agreement between parents who are either divorced/divorcing or never married, and it outlines the custody of their children. It takes into account arrangements such as who has the children on which days; who makes major decisions about the child’s education, health, etc.; and what to do if any party’s situation significantly changes. Parents who agree on a parenting plan rather than let the court decide are more likely to comply with custody arrangements.
Sitting down with the spouse you are divorcing to work out a parenting plan may seem like the last thing you want to do, but this approach holds many advantages. You are the people who know your children best: their needs, their schedules and their preferences. By working together to create a parenting plan that satisfies the needs of your new family structure, you will avoid the possibility of a court’s less nuanced solution. A court can only know what you tell it about your family’s particularities, but you and your spouse are already exceptionally familiar with the territory.
Examples of some factors that parents should consider when creating their own time sharing schedule and which may affect the appropriateness of the time-sharing plans are provided below:(where applicable)
• The age(s) and specific needs of the child(ren) and any unique social circumstances.
Parents should keep in mind that the time sharing schedule selected should be age appropriate. Child experts (and many parents) recommend that more frequent but shorter periods of time sharing be scheduled for younger children, while older children often benefit from longer but less frequent periods of time sharing. Consequently, the time sharing schedule may need to be modified as the child(ren) age. It is important that the parents work together to establish the most suitable time sharing arrangement for the specific needs of their child(ren).
Additionally, parents of younger child(ren) may need to schedule time sharing earlier in the day (such as beginning immediately after daycare) to accommodate the child(ren)’s earlier bedtime schedule.
• Transportation and travel time of the child(ren) to and from scheduled time sharing.
• The logistics involved in arranging the time sharing.
Many parents have also found it valuable to take into consideration issues such as:
• Details concerning the exchange of the child(ren), including the parent responsible for transportation and the place and time when the exchange will occur.
• School schedule, including the place and time for pickup of the child(ren) after school or after extracurricular activities; and the official school calendar for holidays and seasonal breaks. Some parents find it helpful to use the , County School calendar even if the child(ren) are not enrolled in school. Even if the child(ren) are not school age, the school calendar gives parties a good general reference of when child(ren) are available for time sharing. Also, the current annual calendar shows the actual holidays which may differ from year to year.
Alternatively, parents of very young child(ren) may decide to use the holiday and break schedule for the preschool or daycare that their child(ren) attend.
• Methods of communication between the parties and between the parties and child(ren), including telephone, videophone, email, and text messaging. It is not appropriate for a child to deliver messages between parents. Some parents find it useful to prohibit communication through any third party, whether related to the parties or not.
• Timely notice of cancellation of time sharing or deviation from the time sharing plan.
• Itinerary when vacations are scheduled.
• Right of first refusal when a parent is out of town or in the hospital.
• Religious holidays and schedules.
• Whether to agree that the children shall be prohibited from calling anyone other than the Mother or Father names like “Mommy,” “Daddy,” “Mother,” or “Father.”
• Any other matters that may be unique to the particular needs of the family.