By: Tara Brown
Tara Brown is a Partner at WhitbeckBennett. Ms. Brown was born and raised in northern New Jersey. She has been practicing Family Law and Trust & Estates for six years, and has 18 years of experience negotiating contracts. Her endeavor to objectively evaluate situations has led to creative, unique solutions in negotiations with opposing parties in the practice. To learn more about Tara, click here.
The most painful and challenging aspect of separating from your significant other when children are involved is considering the impact on the children and determining how to make the best of a new situation. Often during the separation or divorce anger clouds a parent’s ability to see the value of the other parent. However, unless a parent is deemed unfit, the constitution provides parenting is a fundamental right and parents have rights to the care, custody, and control of their children. Parents who cannot agree on parenting time or custody can petition the court.
In Virginia cases involving custody and visitation the main consideration for the Court is what is in the best interest of the child. The Virginia code does not include gender-based presumption in regard to custody or parenting time. It is best for the parents to consider and discuss based on the unique circumstances of their family what a parenting schedule should look like and how to make the transition between homes as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
Parents should consider at the outset the bigger questions like where the children will live, go to school, if applicable, if custody will be joint or who will have primary physical custody and who will have visitation. Sharing physical custody is an option, but again in considering the proposed schedule, the best interest of the child will be looked at to determine whether too much change might compromise the child’s feeling of stability or raise other problems.
When considering visitation, parents will want to look at what is important to their family. For example, which holidays are important to each parent? Is a summertime vacation at the beach important? or a Spring break trip to visit family? Should these be alternated annually? Do the parent’s work schedules accommodate every other weekend visitation?
Where will the transition from homes take place? Will one parent provide transportation, or should a meeting place be set up? Will there be significant transportation costs, time, and effort be involved and if so, how should they be divided?
Will we have shared legal custody? Who will have sole legal custody? It is helpful to work out in advance who has the primary responsibility for medical decisions and other decisions that will need to be made or if the parents intend that these decisions will always be made jointly?
Should the other parent be allowed to Facetime during noncustodial periods and if so, how often?
What are your concerns? Are there other issues that should be addressed in your parenting plan, like whether it is appropriate for a parent to have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over during the time the children are present?
A child’s identity is very much tied up with their parents disparaging a parent in front of a child undermines the child’s self-esteem. It might be appropriate to address this concern with a provision in the parenting plan that this cannot happen. Rest assured that when the child grows older, he or she will be able to view the behavior of both parents and reach their own conclusions.
Each parenting plan should be tailored to the specific family and be as comprehensive as possible. Expectations concerning education can be included. How will expenses for college tuition, private schools, summer camps or other extracurricular activities be divided?
As you can see, there are many issues that if addressed can make life easier and less stressful for everyone involved. Call us today for a consultation (804) 608-0260. Come in and talk to me about the family time you would like to see in your parenting agreement. I have years of experience and can help you address the relevant questions to create an agreement tailored to your family.