Child Custody and Timesharing - Attorneys in Lexington, KY

What the Basic Terms Mean

One of the main concerns parents have when divorcing or breaking up (if an unmarried couple) is what will happen to their children. Parents will want to discuss their options with an experienced family law attorney. The following are basic terms to be aware of.

Child Custody. Child custody is about decision-making. We are talking about major decisions, including religious (such as what church will the kids go to), education (example: public school versus public school) ad medical decisions (such as treatment for ADD). We are not talking about minor decisions, such whether one house serves broccoli and the other house does not.

Joint Custody (sometimes called joint legal custody). Generally, most parents share what we call joint custody. What that means is that both parents continue to make major decisions together about their children, just like they did before they separated. The idea is that, even though the parents are splitting up, neither parent is splitting up with their children. Many parents do not always think exactly the same way, even parents who remain married and are living together. Often, the parents include language in any agreement they sign that addresses what they will do if they cannot agree on an issue involving a child and how they will resolve any differences that arise.

Sole Custody (sometimes called sole legal custody). Occasionally, only one parent will have custody and when that happens it is called sole custody. In this situation only one parent gets to make major decisions about the children. The other parent does not usually get a say in the decisions. The most common circumstances in which you see a sole custody situation is when one parent is unable to take care of him or herself (much less a child). Typical scenarios include when one parents has significant mental health issues or drug or alcohol issues. Parents can also agree that one parent will have sole custody.

What if the parents cannot ultimately agree on custody? If the parents cannot agree, then the judge will decide, after a hearing (trial) on the matter what is in the “best interests” of the child.

Timesharing (Visitation)

The schedule of how often the children go back and forth between the parents’ houses is called “timesharing” (also known as visitation). The parents are free to come up with the best timesharing schedule for their children. In fact, the Courts generally prefer that the parents decide upon the schedule themselves, and encourage them to do so, because the parents know their children the best and usually know the best schedule for the children.

If the parties can agree, there really is no right or wrong schedule. There are many different unique schedules. One timesharing schedule does not fit all families. Often, parents might have a set schedule referred to as the “regular” timesharing schedule that addresses times during the school year. The parents might have a different schedule they use just for holidays, summer, vacations and breaks. Some parents work so well together that they have no set schedule at all.

If the parents ultimately cannot agree on the timesharing schedule, then the judge will make this decision for the parents after a hearing (or trial) and determine the schedule the judge believes is in the child’s “best interests”.

How custody and Timesharing Work Together

Parents do not have to live close by to share joint legal custody. Parents who live far away from each can share joint legal custody, if they can make it work. This is easier every day, with modern technological advances, such as skyping, emailing, texting and phone calls to keep in close touch.

Also, just because parents share joint legal custody, this does not mean that they automatically have equal timesharing with their children. Sometimes that is the case, and many couples do share equal time with their children. But this is not necessarily so.

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