Custody and Parenting Time

Two of the most hotly contested and contentious issues center around custody and parenting time and require a special skill and temperament to amicably resolve. Joint Legal Custody is usually agreed to or ordered by a court. The term itself means that the parents are to make joint decisions regarding the health, education and welfare of their children. This has no bearing on where the children live or how the parenting time will be allocated between the parents. One parent will be designated as the Parent of Primary Residence and the other designated as the Parent of Alternate Residence. In some rare situations, the parents share physical custody equally and this is called “shared parenting.” There is also a term called “split-parenting” which is even a more rare situation in which one party is the Parent of Primary Residence of one of the children and the other parent is the Parent of Primary Residence of the other child.

Prior to having the custody and parenting time issues decided by a Court, the Court in the absence of a domestic violence restraining order, will require the parties to attend mediation through the court system. This mediation is conducted by a a trained member of the court to help resolve the matter and usually does not require attorneys to be present. If mediation is successful, the mediator will draft the terms and provide them to the parties who can review them with their respective attorneys prior to executing the agreement.

If mediation is unsuccessful, the mediator will simply inform the judge that the matter could not settle without disclosing the details to the Court. At that point, sometimes medical health care professionals are needed to conduct psychological testing and issue a written Custody and Parenting Time Evaluation that will provide the Court with information and recommendations to assist the Court in rendering the ultimate decisions after a trial is conducted.

A trial is a hearing where custody and parenting time is most often part of the larger divorce trial. Both parties have the opportunity to testify, as does the custody expert (or experts if both or either party hires their own expert) and other witnesses, following which the court will enter its decision. Litigated custody cases can involve many trial days, and legal fees and expert fees accumulate quickly.

Gourvitz & Gourvitz LLC.

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