During child custody disputes, one of the hardest decisions left for the court to make is usually a fair allocation of parenting time. Initially, it might seem like allocating equal parenting time would make sense, but there are usually lots of factors to be prudently considered. However, in all cases, the court must consider the child’s best interest above any other factor. If you are going through a divorce or just not satisfied with your allocated parenting time. With the help of a hired Summit County attorney, you can get parenting time if you weren’t previously allocated or get more of it if you feel you aren’t getting enough. All you would have to do is establish to the court that it’s in the best interest of the child if you get some (or more) parenting time. 

So you and your partner are stuck in the middle of an unfortunate separation, and worst off, your partner wins the sole right to physical custody. You’re now left with little to no time with your children, yet you’re concerned whether or not the court will favor your plea for more time with them. If you’ve been faced with such budding issues, read on, as we explore how a court will decide whether or not you get parenting time and how much of it. 

First and foremost, it’s important to know that the right to “parenting time” for a parent who does not have physical custody of a child is guaranteed by the law. For parents with part or no physical custody rights, it is the time that they spend with the child especially if they do not live with them. It’s okay if you are a little confused between parenting time and visitation time, in this context, there isn’t much difference between the two. 

Whether or not the parent has the “privilege of parenting time” is usually either mutually agreed upon by both parents or ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Child’s Best Interest

Interestingly, even though the court uses the Child’s Best Interest as an ultimate deciding factor in parenting time, to actually establish the child’s best interest, the court usually weighs a range of factors, some of which we’ll discuss. 

A parent’s past pattern of conduct regarding the child is usually carefully considered before deciding parenting time. For example, if a parent has an established history of posing a physical or emotional threat to the child’s wellbeing, the court is likely to skew their decision against such a parent. Similarly, the court might decide to skew its decision to favor a parent if there’s a history of care and attention towards the child. But of course, this isn’t usually the sole decider, other factors have to also add up. 

Parenting Time 

The court will also consider the proximity of both parents to each other. If both parents do not live reasonably close to each other, the court might decide on a parenting schedule that would save the child the stress of frequent travel between both parents. 

The wishes of either parent are also considered when deciding parenting time. If for some reason, either parent wishes for smaller parenting time, the court is likely to weigh such a wish heavily. It will definitely look counterproductive to assign more parenting time to a parent who needs less of it. 

The wishes of the child are also usually considered. An unemancipated child who is under the age of 18 might not have the power to make this type of decisions but it does not mean he (or she) does not have a voice. Of course, the aim here is to stick to the child’s best interest, so the court might as well give the child some leeway. If the court determines that the child is sufficiently mature enough to make reasonable and independent preferences, those preferences may be fairly weighted by the court while deciding parenting time.

The child’s age is important

The emphasis here is not on the age (as long as the child isn’t 18) but on the maturity of the child. In other words, the preferences of a 12 year old who needs more time with one parent because the child believes the parent provides a more stable parenting environment will hold more weight than that of a 17-year-old who needs more time with a parent because he believes the parent will get him (or her) a new gaming console. However, since judges understand that parents may try to bribe their children with gifts or promises of more lenient discipline, judges may sometimes attach little weight to a child’s preferences. 

Family Court

Also, the court will almost never ask the child to state his (or her) preference in court. The child’s preferences would likely be transmitted to the court through a parenting evaluator. This is to ensure that the child doesn’t appear to be loyal to either parent in front of both parents in court. The parenting guarantor will usually interview the child in private giving the child some space to express some preferences if the child wishes to do so. 

In the same vein, a child’s relationship with parents and siblings is also considered when deciding what’s best for the child. Before being allocated parenting time and to what amount, the court would want to know which parent has the strongest emotional connections with. The court might also want to know how your separation has affected the child, and if negatively, how your presence would help ameliorate such problems. 

Also, since child development is usually a collective effort of the entire family unit, how the absence or presence of a child’s siblings or family members in a child’s life affects the child is usually an important deciding factor. 

Another thing the court will consider is if either parent is less “fit” for parenting. This usually entails whether or not the parent has a history of substance abuse, has a criminal record or is predisposed to domestic violence. And then there’s the issue of mental and physical fitness. Since parenting could be an enormous task, if a parent has any form of mental or physical disability, it may be in the best interest of the child if the parent gets less parenting time. 

Through the points we’ve listed are some of the major things the court could consider, there can’t really be an exhaustive list of things the court will consider. Depending on the unique case, the court might choose to consider a lot less apparent factors and ask much more miscellaneous questions with no definitive answers. But after all is said and done, the child’s best interest is always paramount.