Divorce is a major change in the lives of parents and children. One obvious impact is the change to how the parent balances work and home life. It can be a parent once again going back to work outside the home to better support the family. For others, it is the higher-income parent handling more of the day-to-day details like pick-up and drop-off at school or other activities.
Custody is different than parenting time
One common misperception in divorce is that custody dictates how often the children see mom or dad. Sole custody or joint custody entitles a parent to weigh in on important issues related to their children, including education, religious affiliation, medical decisions, or travel. This legal custody is separate from physical custody, visitation plans or a parenting plan that divides the children’s time between the parents’ homes. In other words, you may not have the children 50% of the time, but you still may have an equal say on important issues. Nor do you need partial custody to have visitation time with your children.
Determining the right arrangement
When they divorce, some parents are determined to remain active or become more involved in their children’s lives. This, however, may not be realistic if they have demanding careers. Parents need to think about this when negotiating a parenting plan or custody with the coparent. Important considerations include:
What’s best for the children: The children’s needs and wishes should be a priority when determining a plan.
Work demands: Parents may want to be more active daily, but this may be an issue if they are a flight attendant, a doctor or a salesperson. Moreover, the divorce settlement and support may hinge on them continuing to do their current job.
Help at home may be critical: Those with demanding jobs or other obligations may need help from an additional caregiver. This can be a family member or someone hired with approval as part of the parenting plan. Courts are open to this as long as you are home around dinner to spend time with the children.
Flexibility: Some parenting schedules are quite specific, but it can help both coparents if there is some flexibility (within reason) in their coparenting partnership. Parents may also need to speak with supervisors or coworkers about family obligations – many managers and coworkers will accommodate parents who need to leave if arrangements are made ahead of time.
Finding a solution that works
An experienced family law lawyer can help couples draft a fair and equitable parenting plan and or custody arrangement. These legal professionals will help address the children’s needs and wishes while also accommodating the wishes, needs, and work schedules of the parents.