WHERE WILL OUR CHILDREN LIVE? Parents in a family case with minor children are usually very concerned about how much time he/she/they will get to spend with the child(ren). In any action affecting that family, including but not limited to divorce, legal separation, or paternity that involves a minor child, the court must issue an order that allocates periods of physical placement of the minor child.
- Physical placement refers to the terms of the order in a family action that establishes which parent has the right to have a child physically placed with that parent. The parent awarded placement has the right and responsibility to make routine daily decisions for the child(ren) during that period of placement. These decisions should be consistent with the major decisions made for the child by the parent(s) having legal custody.
WHAT WILL THE SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE? After taking into consideration the "factors in setting a placement schedule" (see below), the parents or the court can set a schedule that will work best for the family. For as many options as you can imagine, that's how many options exist when creating the schedule. Many older children, who are bonded with both parents and both parents live close to the school, can do well with alternating placement one week with one parent and one week with the other parent. Many child psychologists explain that a child who has met his/her major developmental milestones can endure being away from a bonded parent one overnight for each year of life. As such, they recommend that smaller children have more frequent exchanges. An experienced family law attorney, such as those at Your Family Law Center, can assist in developing a placement schedule that is in the child's best interest, taking into consideration the prior parenting, the child's schedule, the parents' schedules, etc.
HOW WILL THE COURT DECIDE WHERE OUR CHILD(REN) SHOULD LIVE? The court shall set a placement schedule that is deemed in the child’s best interest. There is a presumption that it is it in a child’s best interest to maximize meaningful placement with both parents. There is no presumption in the law that the parents shall have equal placement.
Factors for setting a placement schedule:
- The wishes of the child's parent or parents, as shown by any stipulation between the parties, any proposed parenting plan or any legal custody or physical placement proposal submitted to the court at trial.
- The wishes of the child, which may be communicated by the child or through the child's guardian ad litem or other appropriate professional.
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest.
- The amount and quality of time that each parent has spent with the child in the past, any necessary changes to the parents' custodial roles and any reasonable life-style changes that a parent proposes to make to be able to spend time with the child in the future.
- The child's adjustment to the home, school, religion, and community.
- The age of the child and the child's developmental and educational needs at different ages.
- Whether the mental or physical health of a party, minor child, or other person living in a proposed custodial household negatively affects the child's intellectual, physical, or emotional well-being.
- The need for regularly occurring and meaningful periods of physical placement to provide predictability and stability for the child.
- The availability of public or private childcare services.
- The cooperation and communication between the parties and whether either party unreasonably refuses to cooperate or communicate with the other party.
- Whether each party can support the other party's relationship with the child, including encouraging and facilitating frequent and continuing contact with the child, or whether one party is likely to unreasonably interfere with the child's continuing relationship with the other party.
- Whether there is evidence that a party engaged in abuse, as defined in s. 813.122 (1) (a), of the child, as defined in s. 813.122 (1) (b). 12m. Whether any of the following has a criminal record and whether there is evidence that any of the following has engaged in abuse, as defined in s. 813.122 (1) (a), of the child or any other child or neglected the child or any other child: a. A person with whom a parent of the child has a dating relationship, as defined in s. 813.12 (1) (ag). b. A person who resides, has resided, or will reside regularly or intermittently in a proposed custodial household.
- Whether there is evidence of interspousal battery as described under s. 940.19or 940.20 (1m) or domestic abuse as defined in s. 813.12 (1) (am).
- Whether either party has or had a significant problem with alcohol or drug abuse.
- The reports of appropriate professionals if admitted into evidence.
- Such other factors as the court may in each individual case determine to be relevant.
The court cannot give preference to one parent over the other on the basis of sex or race of the parent or potential custodian, the extramarital relationships or moral-social values of a parent, the choice of religion, or whether a parent is a service member or may be called to active duty. An initial “final order” for placement will most likely remain in effect for at least two years. As such you should not take lightly the impact of your final (not temporary) order. Placement matters are best handled by an experienced family law attorney, such as the attorneys at Your Family Law Center, S.C.