Whal Will My Parenting Time Look Like if I Get a Divorce?
The first question I am typically asked is “What will my parenting time look like if I get a divorce?” This is a loaded question and really depends on the facts and circumstances of each family. In order to answer the question, though, I generally explain some of the historical factors, the presumption under the law, and what we might expect in the client’s individual circumstances.
Because most fathers were the bread winners and most mothers were the stay at home mothers, when couples divorced years ago, the children typically were placed with their mother. Over time, people have assumed that mothers receive full custody of the children and fathers receive parenting time. This perception though is shifting in today’s culture as more and more families have two working parents.
In Indiana, we presume (but it is rebuttable) that one parent will be the primary physical and legal custodian of the children and the other parent will have parenting time.
In a dissolution case, there is no presumption in favor of either parent. In a nutshell, the Indiana Parenting Guidelines provide (with exceptions for non-school age children) that that the Non-custodial parent (NCP) would receive alternating Fridays at 6 p.m. to Sundays 6 p.m., a midweek for four hours, half of the summer and designated holidays. The guidelines will set forth exceptions to standards for situations in which distance is a major factor, the child is very young, or there is a history of violence between the parties.
Assuming that a NCP will only receive standard parenting time in today’s society, though, is foolish. A skilled family law attorney can negotiate additional parenting time for his or her client. In a day and age where both parents work full time and equally care for the child(ren), we see more and more NCPs with expanded parenting time (extra overnights either on the alternating weekend or on midweek), and some parents even share joint physical custody.
Joint physical custody literally means the children spend equal (or near equal) time with each parent. There are some standard ways this may be accomplished such as alternating weeks or one parent having every Monday and Tuesday and the other parent having every Wednesday and Thursday and alternating the weekends. The parents would then create some extended time for holidays or vacations that would work for both parents. Ultimately, a court may order joint physical custody if it is in the best interests of the children. Typically, though, joint physical custody is reached by the parents who are putting the best interests of their children first. It requires that the parents be able to work together, communicate with one another, and support each other as co-parents. It means that the parents are able to put their differences aside to do what is best for the children.
While joint physical custody can work for a lot of families, it is not for all cases. In cases in which there is a history of physical or emotional abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, criminal history, children unable to handle the constant move back and forth between homes, unusual work schedules of one or both parents, or distance between the parties, it may be necessary to go back to the presumption of one parent being the CP and the other being the NCP with standard parenting time.
Each case is different. The needs of the children are different. The involvement of the parents in the children’s lives vary from case to case. It takes a skilled family law attorney to evaluate each unique situation and advocate for the best outcome for the family.
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Divorce proceedings can be a complicated process. Jill M. Denman, partner at the Law firm of Matheny Hahn & Denman, has been assisting clients with all manners of Family Law in the Huntington, IN, Wabash, IN and surrounding communities for over 20 years. Jill, a Wabash , IN native focusing on all aspects of family law including Divorce, Child Custody, adoptions, paternity, child support , guardianships, visitation, and is a certified family law mediator. Contact us today if you need assistance in a family law matter.