During a marriage, the family has a daily routine in which the household operates. But the situation gets complicated when two households and two parents operate separately and differently in the event of a termination of the relationship or marriage.
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 parenting time, usually per the particular County’s Standard Order of Parenting Time, where the termination of marriage action is filed. The Standard Order is generally a midweek 3-hour period and alternates weekends from Friday until Sunday. Holidays are divided and alternate year by year, and the non-custodial parent receives either a bulk period of Summer parenting time or alternating weeks during Summer. However, additional time may be built into the schedule, even in Sole Custody arrangements.
“Shared parenting” is another legal arrangement whereby both parents share varying amounts of control over the child’s upbringing. The goal of Shared Parenting is ‘co-parenting.’ For example, one person’s home is designated as the primary 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 concerning 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. Their recommendation is also considered if a guardian ad litem has been appointed for the children. Further, some counties in the Miami Valley approach what the default parenting arrangement should be different. Some Courts prefer Shared Parenting as opposed to Sole Custody; others are neutral.
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 effective communication is one of the leading causes of marital problems, and terminating the marriage does not increase the communication skills of the parties.
Shared parenting requires an even greater degree of effective 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. That Shared Parenting Plan incorporates agreements on the parenting schedule, the guideline support, whether a deviation of support is appropriate based upon time spent with the non-residential parent, and the contribution of the Obligor (the parent usually paying the support) to the expenses of the child which may include extracurricular, school fees, clothing expenses and out of pocket medical costs. One critical aspect of Shared Parenting is the mechanism and/or authority to resolve and make important parenting decisions. For example, the child wishes to get their ears pierced or whether the child will be vaccinated for Co-Vid. Usually, the Plan will call for the parties to determine what is in the children’s best interests and then make a mutual decision. Ultimately, however, one parent should have the final decision-making authority. This is commonly the crux of the post-Decree conflict.
This is not to dismiss the sole custody arrangement that many people choose, but only to say that regardless, you are always co-parenting because children are going to the former spouse’s home and spending time with them. Therefore, going into a Plan with eyes wide open and understanding is important.
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. Equal time alone does not create this commitment, nor does Standard Order preclude this commitment.
If you have questions about this article or other family law concerns, please contact Matt Sorg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 937-223-1130.