Shared Parenting Laws

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 What Is Shared Parenting?

The primary objective of shared parenting, or shared custody, is to ensure a balanced upbringing for the child by providing equal access to and interaction with both parents. In this article, we will explore shared parenting, its differences from joint custody, the process of obtaining a shared parenting order, and the potential need for legal representation.

How Does Child Custody Relate to Shared Parenting?

Child custody refers to the legal and practical relationship between a child and their parent or legal guardian. Legal custody pertains to the right and obligation to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including education, medical care, discipline, and religious education. In contrast, physical custody relates to the actual physical location of the child.

Shared parenting allows the child to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Under this arrangement, each parent typically has physical custody of the child for fifty percent of the time. This approach to parenting planning ensures equal distribution of responsibilities and duties between the mother and father. In contrast, traditional arrangements that grant physical custody to one parent while the other provides financial support.

Shared parenting enables the child to maintain frequent and continuing contact with both parents by dividing physical custody evenly. In this arrangement, each parent usually has the child for fifty percent of the time, allowing the child to spend substantial and quality time with both parents.

This approach to parenting planning ensures a balanced upbringing and fosters strong relationships with both parents.

The equal distribution of responsibilities and duties in shared parenting encompasses various aspects of a child’s life.

Some of these duties include:

  • Daily care: Both parents take turns providing day-to-day care, such as feeding, bathing, dressing, and ensuring the child’s general well-being.
  • Emotional support: Each parent is responsible for offering emotional support, guidance, and nurturing to foster the child’s emotional development.
  • Education: Both parents participate in making decisions about the child’s education, including school choice, extracurricular activities, and attending parent-teacher conferences.
  • Medical care: Each parent shares the responsibility of making decisions about the child’s medical care, including doctor visits, vaccinations, and medical treatments.
  • Discipline: Both parents cooperate in setting rules, boundaries, and disciplinary measures to maintain consistency in the child’s life.
  • Financial support: Each parent contributes to the child’s financial needs, including clothing, housing, education, and medical expenses. This responsibility is typically in addition to any child support payments required by the court.
  • Transportation: Parents are responsible for transporting the child to and from school, extracurricular activities, and other engagements.
  • Religious and cultural upbringing: Both parents make decisions about the child’s religious education and exposure to cultural experiences.
  • Recreation and leisure: Each parent is responsible for providing opportunities for the child to engage in recreational activities and leisure time, promoting a balanced lifestyle.
  • Communication and cooperation: Shared parenting requires effective communication and cooperation between parents to coordinate schedules, exchange information about the child’s well-being, and make decisions in the child’s best interest.

Shared parenting fosters a healthy, balanced upbringing for the child and maintains strong connections with both parents by equally dividing these responsibilities and duties.

What Is the Child’s Best Interests Standard?

The child’s best interests standard is a guiding principle used by courts to determine child custody rights and arrangements. This standard ensures that all decisions made regarding the child prioritize their well-being, safety, and overall development above the personal preferences or convenience of the parents.

Several factors are considered when determining the child’s best interests, including but not limited to the following:

  1. Physical and emotional health: Courts assess each parent’s ability to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing environment that supports the child’s physical and emotional well-being. A history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health issues may negatively impact a parent’s ability to care for the child.
    • Example: A parent who has a stable job, a secure home, and no history of violence or substance abuse would be more likely to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs.
  2. Parental involvement: Courts consider the level of involvement each parent has in the child’s life, including their engagement in educational, medical, and extracurricular activities.
    • Example: A parent who regularly attends parent-teacher conferences, participates in school events, and supports the child’s hobbies and interests demonstrates active involvement in the child’s life.
  3. Consistency and stability: Courts prioritize maintaining a stable and consistent environment for the child, including their home, school, and community.
    • Example: The court would favor a parent who can provide a stable home environment, minimize disruptions to the child’s daily routine, and ensure continuity in their education and social life.
  4. Age and developmental needs: The age and developmental stage of the child may influence the court’s decision. Younger children may require more hands-on care, while older children may have specific educational or social needs.
    • Example: A parent who can adapt their parenting style to the child’s age and developmental stage, addressing their changing needs as they grow, would be considered more suitable.
  5. Parent-child relationship: Courts assess the strength and quality of the relationship between the child and each parent, considering factors such as bonding, attachment, and the child’s preferences when appropriate.
    • Example: A parent with a strong, loving bond with the child and with whom the child feels comfortable and secure may be considered more suitable for custody.

These factors, among others, help courts to determine the most appropriate custody arrangement that serves the child’s best interests. The specific details of each case may vary, but the guiding principle remains the same: prioritizing the child’s well-being, safety, and overall development above all else.

How is Shared Parenting Different from Joint Custody?

Although shared custody and joint custody are often used interchangeably, they represent distinct custody arrangements. Shared parenting or shared custody emphasizes sharing time with the child, while joint custody grants equal rights to both parents regarding decision-making involving the child.

Joint custody enables parents to have greater control over the custody agreement, with one parent typically having physical and legal custody rights and the other non-possessory parent retaining visitation rights. Joint custody arrangements are less focused on the time spent with each parent, making them more suitable for both parents living and working in the same area.

In contrast, shared parenting primarily concentrates on the amount of time the child spends with each parent. This arrangement is often more appropriate when one parent assumes more responsibility, such as when one parent works out of state or lacks a stable income, or is chronically ill or injured.

How Is a Shared Parenting Order Obtained? Can a Shared Parenting Order Be Modified?

Courts must approve all child custody arrangements, with orders generally issued alongside divorce rulings. Child custody orders typically address child custody rights designation, child support, and visitation rights. Unmarried couples may also file for a court hearing to determine shared parenting options based on their unique circumstances.

A shared parenting order typically details various aspects of raising the child. Legally enforceable under state laws, child custody orders require adherence from both parents, with violations potentially resulting in contempt of court, loss of parenting privileges, or monetary fines.

These aspects include visitation and custody schedules, rights and duties of each parent, child support calculations and schedules, distribution of duties and responsibilities, and instructions regarding any special needs the child may have.

With a judge’s approval, shared parenting orders can sometimes be modified. The court must be petitioned to obtain a modification, with one or both parties presenting evidence to support the proposed changes. As shared parenting implies cooperation between parents, they may need to negotiate with each other to discuss desired modifications.

Do I Need an Attorney to Obtain a Shared Parenting Order?

Although divorcing parents may cooperate reasonably, consulting a skilled and knowledgeable child custody lawyer is in their best interest.

Shared parenting can be an ideal custody arrangement, but it may not be available in some cases. An experienced child custody lawyer can help determine if such an arrangement is available to you.

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