In a divorce or custody proceeding involving minor children, a parenting time schedule, often referred to as “visitation” must be determined and included in any court order issues. In establishing a parenting time schedule, the court must determine that the schedule is in the best interests of the children considering the “best interest factors” under Minn. Stat. § 518.17. If parties reach an agreement and submit a proposed parenting time order to the court, you must make sure that there is a specific finding of fact that the custody and parenting time arrangement is in the best interests of the children. If the case is submitted to the court for decision, the court will consider affidavits or testimony presented at a trial and make findings as to each factor given the parties’ circumstances.
When parents are negotiating a schedule, they often look to friends and family to give them advice about what type of schedule has worked for them. Many parents will immediately say they want a 50-50 schedule, or they want a 5-2-2-5 or 3-2-2-3. While these widely used schedules work well for many children, there are many situations where these schedules are not age-appropriate. Further, the parenting time schedules for young children often need to change as they mature and extracurricular activities and peer relationships become more important.
How is a parent to know what type of schedule is appropriate for their child’s age? What are considerations for parenting time when there are several children? There are resources that can help parents make age-appropriate parenting time decisions. A widely used resource is contained in “Planning for Parenting Time: Arizona’s Guide for Parents Living Apart.”, published by the Arizona Judicial Branch. The nearly 70 page long manual addresses various circumstances which impact a child’s “well-being and development,” including detailed insights as to the role of a child’s age in determining the parenting time schedule that is most appropriate. Further, it explains why schedules are or are not age appropriate. The guide also discusses the challenges of planning parenting time for specific age groups. For example, as teens get more involved in school, friends, clubs, and sports it can leave less time for the parents to exercise their parenting time. The guide also gives extensive insight on holiday and vacation schedules for each age group. In addition, the guide also provides parents tools to work with to try and maximize their time with their children. The guide provides much more information than what is summarized here and can be an excellent tool for parents establishing or modifying parenting time schedules.
There is no obvious “right” or “wrong” answer as to what parenting time should look like for a child, and under each family’s unique circumstances. However, there are resources out there to help parents more knowledgeably navigate the issue. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, it is important to have a lawyer with experience and knowledge in this area. With more than 35 years of experience in Minnesota divorce law, Kathleen M. Newman Family Law offers compassionate legal guidance and resources, and we will help our clients work constructively to find parenting time schedules which work. To learn more about our legal services, contact our firm to schedule a consultation.
Minn. Stat. Section 518.17.
“Planning for Parenting Time: Arizona’s Guide for Parents Living Apart.” © 2009 Arizona Supreme Court.