One of the first questions parents ask if they file for divorce is who will have custody of their children, or “parenting time” as it is called in California. Any parenting time arrangements should be reasonable. What reasonable means can be determined by the parents or by the court.
Parents can decide what is reasonable
Parents themselves are free to make their own parenting time arrangements. Some choose to create a scheduled parenting time agreement. This type of agreement will spell out exactly which parent has the child on weekdays, weekends, summers and holidays.
On one hand, scheduled parenting time lets both parents and the child know exactly what to expect, which might reduce confusion and conflict. Still, scheduled parenting time leaves little room for flexibility, which might make it unworkable if parents have variable work schedules, travel often or otherwise want to be able to keep custody arrangements more open-ended.
Parents who do not like the idea of scheduled parenting time may create a reasonable parenting time agreement instead. This type of agreement may not state who has the child on specific days and holidays. Instead, it might give a more open-ended schedule and provide a means of deciding who will have the child in their care when it works for them.
Reasonable parenting time arrangements can work for families with unusual schedules or living arrangements, but it requires a lot of cooperation. Parents must also be able to communicate effectively and be willing to be flexible to make reasonable parenting time work.
The court can decide what is reasonable
If parents cannot agree on parenting time arrangements, or if their own idea of reasonableness is not working, they will have to go to court to have a reasonable parenting plan ordered.
Courts will decide what is reasonable based on the child’s best interests. Factors the judge will consider when making parenting time decisions include, but are not limited to:
- How old the child is,
- The child’s past and current relationship with each parent and each parent’s ability to provide the child with the care they need,
- The child’s ties to their school and home, and
- Whether domestic violence or substance abuse is an issue
Even if parents can agree on a reasonable parenting plan on their own, they should have their agreement approved by the court. This makes the agreement legally enforceable, which could prove useful if disagreements about parenting time arise in the future.