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Key to Parenting Time: Cooperation

Splitting parenting time can be fertile ground for conflict  Parties get fixated on percentages and the number of overnights, instead of cooperation and what may work best for the kids. It’s best to focus discussions on child-centered schedules. If you walk into court describing your kids like a pie to be divided, you’ll lose credibility with the judge.

Parenting Percentages

All too often, a parent in the middle of a divorce views splitting parenting time as a battle. There are a winner and a loser. Lawyers and CFIs involved will say that when parenting is approached in this way, everyone loses, especially the kids.

An early sign of trouble is the talk by a parent of percentages, like “50/50″ or even “100% custody”.  The latter is so wrong it’s hard to find a place to begin.  And while there are extreme circumstances where a court may award one parent all of the parenting time, they are rare. Property can be divided “50/50,″ so can debts. But kids are people and discussing their lives in terms of percentages – while expedient and natural – is a mistake.

Here’s a test: how would a child feel hearing a parent talk about “dividing them 50/50″ versus hearing both parents talk about “sharing” time equally? There is a fundamental difference between these two perspectives.  And kids know it. Not only does it help to change the view away from some competition, but dropping all talk of percentages also frees up the parties to focus better on the child’s needs.  A better route is always cooperation.

When we’re using the phrase “shared parenting time,” we’re not so fixated on ending up at 183 overnights each year. Sharing may be equal, or it may not.  But it’s still sharing. Use of percentages is easy and quick, and in the heat of serious negotiations, even lawyers may slip into this bad habit. But it’s not productive.  It comes from the wrong perspective, and it can be a severe distraction from child-focused plans.

What About Overnights?

Divorcing parents can also be fixated on the number of overnights. This may be because child support is based, in part, on the number of overnights a parent has. It’s a good bet that a parent who’s never talked about “overnights” before has probably spoken to a lawyer about his or her child support obligation.

On the road to divorce court, there can be many conversions. Don’t be surprised when a parent who, before the filing for a divorce, was distant and disinterested, suddenly becomes neurotic about splitting parenting time and getting as many overnights as possible. While it’s nice to be in charge of putting the kids to bed and getting them ready for school, isn’t there something strange about fighting over who gets the kids when they’re asleep?

Does it make sense to put so much emphasis on the hours the kids spend sleeping while negotiating a parenting plan? This is what the law sets as the priority – overnights. And Colorado law uses the number of overnights for more than just calculating child support. For example, if a parent seeks to modify the original parenting order, certain limits may exist, or burdens may apply, depending on the current number of overnights.

What do you do in these circumstances where your economic interests (i.e., child support) may not align with a child-focused parenting plan? Good divorce lawyers can work on detaching these two issues, to the extent the law allows.  The way, all parties can get back to focusing on the best interests of the child.

Setting Schedules

The focus of splitting parenting time should be on parents spending good, quality time with their kids. To accomplish this objective, we look at, among other things:

  • Each parent’s work schedule
  • Age of the children
  • Travel time to and from school/daycare/activities

Sometimes you have to get creative in maximizing quality time with each parent.  For example, in the case of a nurse, whose schedule may change every couple of weeks. We need to find time slots where that parent can exercise parenting time on a very fluid schedule.

Time with a parent is better than time with a daycare or babysitter.  So, if one parent can have parenting time when the child would be in daycare or with a babysitter, a court may make it happen.   Cooperation is critical in getting a schedule that works for everyone.

Contact our firm today and let us help you with splitting parenting time issues.

Posted January 14, 2019
by: MFL Team

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