Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time

As part of any divorce involving children, the parents (or the court) need to develop a parenting plan setting forth how the parents will make important decisions regarding the children and how the parents will share time with the children.

As part of any divorce involving children, the parents (or the court) need to develop a parenting plan setting forth (1) how the parents will make important decisions regarding the children (a.k.a. legal decision-making, formerly legal custody) and (2) how the parents will share time with the children (a.k.a. parenting time, formerly physical custody). At Hinderaker Family Law, we are experienced visitation lawyers who will walk you through the process and fight for your rights as a parent.

Legal Decision-Making

Legal decision-making means the right and responsibility to make nonemergency, important decisions for a child, particularly in the areas of education (e.g. what school will your children attend?), health care (e.g. should your children get braces?), religious upbringing, and personal care.

If the parents cannot agree on whether or not to share joint legal decision-making, the court will decide. In making its decision, the court must consider whether joint or sole legal decision-making will serve the best interests of the minor children involved. The state legislature has declared that, absent evidence to the contrary, it is in a child’s best interests for both parents to participate in decision-making (joint legal decision-making), but there are cases where sole legal decision-making is appropriate. If you believe that an award of sole legal decision-making (formerly sole custody or sole legal custody) is appropriate in your case, contact the attorneys at Rolfe Hinderaker to discuss the specifics of your situation.

Legal decision-making does not have anything to do with the amount of time the parent will be allowed to spend with the child.

Parenting Time

Parenting time is different than legal decision-making. It’s possible for parents to share equal responsibility when it comes to decision-making, but not share equal parenting time.

Parenting time (formerly physical custody) refers to how your child spends time with each parent. One example of a parenting time schedule is the popular “week on/week off” model. At Rolfe Hinderaker, we believe that your family’s parenting time schedule should be uniquely crafted for your family, whether it is a “traditional” plan or not. When coming up with a parenting time schedule, it’s not only important to look at how your family has traditionally spent time together, but to also consider how to maximize each parent’s parenting time with the children in the future.

Again, if the parents cannot agree on how to share time with the children, then the court will decide for them. In making its decision, the court will consider a number of factors, including the relationships between the parents and the children, the relationships between the children and extended family members, and mental and physical health of all individuals involved. At Hinderaker Family Law, an experienced visitation lawyer will help you establish orders for legal decision-making and parenting time, including preparing a parenting plan, avoiding common pitfalls that lead parents back to court, and presenting the best case possible to the court, in the event that the parents cannot agree on a schedule individually.

This information is intended for informational purposes only, for case specific legal advice please call Hinderaker Family Law at (520) 398-5067.