When the issue of residential custody of the child(ren) is contested in a divorce action, everyone breathes a sigh of relief when it is finally resolved. At the very least, this settles the issue of not only where the child(ren) will live, but also which party will be responsible for the payment of child support to the other. Thus, two significant issues are no longer contested. Most often, upon an agreement as to residential custody, a visitation schedule (now referred to as “parenting time”) is resolved simultaneously. Sometimes though, it is not, and may even interfere with the finalization of residential custody altogether.
There are numerous considerations when negotiating a parenting time schedule, and many of these are obvious. Such considerations, include, but are not limited to: age of the child(ren), geographic residences of the parents, financial considerations and the like. Other less obvious considerations are those related to each parent as an individual embarking on a new life, which may include new financial, social and other experiences and needs. These considerations must be factored into the equation, as whether a parent is happy and secure inevitably influences the best interests of the child(ren). Many times these aspects are ignored, as a parent may believe that if he/she doe not fight for the most parenting time possible, the children will believe that he/she does not love them. This type of thought process is generally one bourne out of fear, and does not consider the bigger picture.
A workable parenting time schedule is one which provides sufficient access to the child(ren) in order to foster a close relationship with the parent. At the same time, the schedule is one which should allow the parents time to pursue their own life and interests. For example, after a divorce, the work schedule of one or both parents may change (or one parent that did not work during the marriage must now seek employment). Additionally, now, as a non-married individual, a parent may want to pursue dating, or a hobby they were not previously able to pursue. Quite simply, parenting is undeniably rewarding, but also time consuming and sometimes stressful. It is critical for a parent to be able to enjoy some “downtime.” This does not mean a parent does not love his/her child(ren). It merely means that everyone needs to be able to enjoy a well-balanced life for themselves, and as an example for his/her children.