Child Custody, Access and Parenting Time
The primary factor in custody or parenting time is what is in the best interests of the children. The court is not going to give consideration to the needs or preferences of the parents. The best interests of the children involves looking at the big picture including factors like the historical parenting arrangements, who the children are most comfortable with, their emotional needs, their physical needs, their educational needs, maintaining contact with extended family members and their community, what the children may want and if there are any mental health issues or abuse.
When lawyers and judges speak about custody, sometimes this creates confusion because the definition of custody also includes decision-making authority. That is why many lawyers and judges now use the term parenting time to specifically refer to time with children, but his can also be called access.
Parenting time can be structured in any way that meets the best interests of the children. Sometimes this is shared parenting where the children spend one week with one parent and then one week with the other. Sometimes one parent has the children most of the time and the other sees them every second weekend and for half of the holidays. Sometimes one child lives with one parent and the other child lives with the other parent in a split custody arrangement.
Decision-making authority over children can be called custody or guardianship. Many times parents are able to work together successfully and they share joint custody/guardianship so that both share in all major decisions in the children’s lives. However, sometimes this is impractical because one parent lives far away or because the parents simply cannot get along well enough to effectively communicate with each other. In these cases, the court may be inclined to order sole custody so that one parent has final decision-making.
When one parent wants to relocate the children to another city it is often contested. However, the best interests of the children are again considered and the court will look at all of the opportunities in the new community but maintaining relationships with both parents is very important. The court is also very reluctant to separate children from the parent who has been the primary caregiver.
There are also incidents where one parent abducts the children and takes them to another country. In this situation the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction comes into play and an application will be brought in court in the foreign country to return the children. There are some exceptions, but most often the children are returned to the country that they were taken from. Also, there are countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention and parents must be extra cautious in agreeing for the children to travel to any of these countries.
At Crossroads Law, our lawyers excel in custody and parenting cases. We understand that it is important for parents to minimize their conflict in order to reduce any negative impacts on the children. Children are more perceptive than we often give them credit for, and they are sensitive to conflict between parents even when it seems to be hidden from them. That is why for most custody and parenting cases we attempt alternative dispute resolution like mediation before going to court. However, we also understand that in some circumstances an aggressive strategy in court is required and we have a history of success with these cases in the family court system. If you would like to book a consult on a custody or parenting case please contact us here.