Setting an effective and fair custody schedule proves to be incredibly difficult in any situation, but it is especially difficult when the parties are in the process of separating their lives. Parties who have relied on each other to take on specific tasks while cohabitating may face unusually difficult adjustments as they live more separately. The Court is both interested in how specific duties were divided in the past, as well as how the parties plan to divide things in the future.
Challenges arise particularly when the parties did not equally balance tasks. Households that relied on a stay at home parent to take care of the household affairs, the family schedules, appointments, and extracurriculars may struggle to adjust to living separately, and the Court does its best to provide co-parenting resources, but takes past roles into consideration when considering future custody arrangements.
Parties may argue that stay at home parents should be awarded primary custody since they were the parent who always took care of the children while the other worked from outside the home. They may be concerned about how the stay at home parent will adjust to being thrust back into the workforce. The stay at home parent might be concerned that the other parent, whose primary role used to be earning a living, is incapable of caring for the children. These are all valid concerns that a Judge will weigh while hearing the case.
Maybe a Judge will award one parent with primary custody with the intention of that parent making medical, educational, and religious choices, with the other parent enjoying physical custodial time. Perhaps a Judge determines that the parent who was previously the primary caregiver, or stay at home parent, is having a difficult time adjusting to their separate life and cannot provide a suitable home for the children. In that case, a Judge is more likely to award the other parent with more custodial time, at least until both parents are equally stable.
Problems often arise when the parties lack faith in each other, or do not trust that they are capable of providing adequate care. They may believe that only they can care for the children, that the other party is too irresponsible to ensure the kids are attending all of the regular activities. Parties may struggle to co-parent because they are too busy trying to micromanage each other. Maybe you are the parent who is used to working and relying on the other parent to care for your children and their appointments. You may worry that a Court will decide you cannot provide satisfactory care because your prior role was spent at the office 60 hours a week.
The Court anticipates any and all of the above roles, and is well-prepared to make an appropriate determination. Judges completely understand the concept that just because a working parent never made it to the pediatrician’s office does not necessarily mean they can’t. Judges tend to follow the parties’ leads- if the parties seem able to co-parent and are respectful of one another as responsible adults, they will likely choose a shared schedule without much concern. If the parties express concern in dividing these roles, the Court will certainly address them, and they may craft an Order that accommodates and compliments the parties’ prior arrangement when they were together. For some parties, it just makes more sense for Dad to keep taking the kids to the pediatrician and for Mom to make it to the dentist. Mom takes the kids to basketball on Wednesdays and Dad shuttles them to CCD on the weekends. In other situations, maybe Mom will do whatever comes her way during her custodial week 1 with Dad taking on whatever challenge his custodial week 2 brings. The Court will evaluate the specific situation and make a determination according to the parties.
The best way to ensure that you get the custody schedule you want is to be open-minded, respectful, and cooperative. Speak up when you see something not working, express realistic concerns, and trust that the Judge is trying to work with you to ensure you receive the best custody schedule given your specific needs.
There are dozens of ways custody schedules can be awarded, but the best schedules are more about the parents making it work and much less about the schedule itself.
If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact JD Law Offices at 412-295-8066, and we can discuss your current custody situation.
This post was written by our writer and content strategist, K. Gealson.
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