Marriage, Children and Divorce

Marriage, Children and Divorce

It looks simple in movie and television: You meet, you fall in love, you get married, and as an expression of that love, you have children.

Yet, as we are in peak wedding season, it might be difficult to think about parenting options if the marriage ends in divorce or dissolution. However,  just because a marriage ends, parenting doesn’t.

During a marriage, the family has a daily routine in which the household operates. But the situation gets complicated when there are two households and two parents that operate separately and differently.

The designation of the “custodial parent” or “residential parent” can be one of the most contentious arguments in the termination of a marriage. When a parent has “legal custody” as the custodial parent, they have the responsibility and right to the care and control of the child’s life. The other parent is also entitled to some form of parenting time, depending on the county where the marriage is terminated.

The “standard order of parenting time,” as it’s known, generally entails alternating weekends, a mid-week visit, alternating holidays, and blocks of time in the summer. Both parties are still obligated to financially support their children and operate in the best interest of the children.

“Shared parenting” is another legal arrangement whereby both parents share varying amounts of control over the child’s upbringing. For example, one person’s home is designated as the main residence for school purposes. While the other parent has parenting time similar to the standard order, it can be expanded and more flexible in its scheduling. Both parties are still obligated to financially support their children and operate in the best interest of the children.

In determining whether shared parenting is in the best interest of the children, the court considers several factors, such as the ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions jointly with respect to the children; the ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection,  and contact between the child and the other parent; any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or domestic violence by either parent; and the geographic proximity of the parents to each other. If a guardian ad litem has been appointed for the children, their recommendation is considered as well.

During the process of terminating a marriage, local counties require that the parties attend a parenting class. The fundamental message in that parenting class is that the parties must communicate. Obviously, it is easier said than done, given that lack of communication is one of the main causes of marital problems.

Shared parenting requires an even greater degree of communication. It allows the parties to be as flexible or as rigid as necessary to achieve the best interest of the children. Inherent in this arrangement is a shared parenting plan. The shared parenting plan must be reviewed by the court to determine if it is in the best interest of the children.

This is not to dismiss the sole custody arrangement that some people choose, but only to say that you are always co-parenting, whether sole or shared, because children are going to the former spouse’s home and spending time with them.

At its heart, the art of shared parenting is a commitment to co-parent, to love the children, and raise them in stable, healthy homes.

If you have any questions about this article or other family law concerns, please contact Matt Sorg at or call 937-223-1130.