Family law disputes can be highly emotional, especially when children are involved. And this is for good reason. After all, the outcome of your child custody and visitation dispute can shape the way you interact with your child and build a relationship with him or her. That’s why it’s critically important that you know how to navigate the law in this regard. Only then will you be able to present legal arguments that protect your child’s best interests and your ability to build and maintain a meaningful relationship with him or her.
How parenting plans are considered
Any time a court is tasked with implementing a custody arrangement, including a parenting plan, it will turn to a number of factors to help guide it so that it makes a determination in furtherance of the child’s best interests. Let’s look at some of those factors:
- The ability of each parent to facilitate time-sharing with the other parent
- The reasonableness of the parents, especially when there needs to be flexibility in the parenting plan
- Each parent’s ability and willingness to help foster a strong parent-child relationship with the other parent
- How parental responsibilities will be divided amongst the parents, with due consideration to any responsibilities that will be passed on to a third-party
- Each parent’s ability to meet the specific needs of the child
- Each parent’s physical and mental health
- The moral character of each parent
- The geographical location of the parents and how that could affect visitation
- The length of time that the child has resided with each parent
- The desire for continuity and stability in the child’s current living arrangement
- The education needs of the child and each parent’s ability to meet those needs
- Each parent’s ability to provide consistency and routine to the child
- Each parent’s ability to communicate with the other parent
- The parents’ willingness to work cooperatively in furtherance of the parenting plan and the child’s best interests
- Any history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or child abuse or neglect
- Each parent’s willingness to participate in the child’s extracurricular activities
- Each parent’s ability to protect the child from pending litigation, meaning that the parent refrains from discussing litigation with the child
That’s a lot of factors that a court can turn to in order to assist it in determining whether a parenting plan is appropriate. But this list isn’t exhaustive. In fact, the statute allows the court to consider any other factor that it may deem relevant to the issue before it. In other words, the court can utilize any information that it has to render its judgment.
What this means for you
This long list of considerations means that you need to be thorough when it comes to developing a parenting plan and litigating your child custody dispute. Not only do you need to be prepared to present evidence in an offensive fashion to show why you believe the other side’s access to the child should be more limited, but you also need to be prepared to defend yourself. After all, the other side may be ready to paint you as a parent who will harm your child in some fashion or prevent him or her from having meaningful contact with the other parent.
Build the holistic and compelling case that your child deserves
There’s a lot on the line in your child custody case, which can certainly be nerve-wracking. But you shouldn’t let the stress of the situation paralyze you into inaction. Instead, you should be proactive in building the case that best supports your child’s best interests. If you’d like assistance in doing that, then now may be the time to reach out to a family law professional who you trust to fight for you and your child.