Parental custody is the term used to describe the rights and responsibilities that parents have toward their children. It means that the parents provide for the physical, emotional, and mental needs of their children. When parents divorce, they need to figure out a way to continue providing the same level of care for the children while the parents aren’t together. Here are some common child custody questions about parental custody to help parents get started.
1. What parent should the child live with? This is the first custody question that the parents must address. There are many factors that should be taken into account to decide the answer. The parents should think about who the primary caregiver has been for the children, if either parent is staying in the house the children grew up in, if one of the parents has moved out of the school district or home town of the child, if there are relationships with step brothers and sisters that are important for the child to maintain, etc. Basically, the parents should try to keep consistency and stability in the child’s life. The child’s circumstances should be as close as possible to what they were before the parent’s separated. Depending on the children, they can live primarily with one parent and visit the other, or the parents can share joint custody and the children can have two households and live with both parents.
2. How do parents set up a custody and visitation schedule? The answer to this question involves thinking about many of the issues mentioned for the question above. Once the parents have decide where the children will live, they can come up with a schedule that outlines the custody and visitation. Again, this schedule is based on what the child needs to continue to develop relationships with both parents. There should be adequate visitation time for the non-custodial parent to bond with the child every week. The schedule should also take the child’s school and extra activities into account. If the parents have joint custody, they should split the time about evenly.
3. Where do the children spend the holidays? Part of the parental custody agreement is figuring out a holiday schedule. Typically, the parents divide up the holidays and switch them every year. It’s important to divide up the holidays equally and evenly–meaning both parents have the same number of big holidays. Parents can set this up however they want. Holidays can be divided in half so the parents can share, and they can also last a few days to allow for extra visitation.
4. Can the custody and visitation schedule change in the summer? If the child needs more consistency during the school year, but the parents want a joint custody arrangement, the time can be made up in the summer. One plan that deals with this is the Ackerman parenting plan. This is a schedule that divides up the time in a 9/5 split during the school year and a 10/4 split during the school year (the parents switch custody). You may find that coming up with a different schedule during the summer helps even out the time between the parents.
These are just some of the questions about parental custody. As parents work through their parenting plan and custody agreement they should seek out resources that can help them answer all of their questions. As they do this, they should be able to come up with an agreement that works for the children and both the parents.