In Family Law, We Have Done It All

The Term “Parenting”: What Does It Mean

Written by Wolfgang R. Anderson

Attorney at Law

Anderson, Fields, Dermody & McIlwain

Instead of the term “custody” and “visitation” we now use the term “parenting time”. A form Parenting Plan can be found at the back of this book. It must be followed section by section.

Because the term “custody” was abused by those who needed to be known as “the custodian” needless and harsh battles were fought. To ameliorate the issue custody was even split into “legal” and “physical” custody. Thereafter and for a short time it became “joint custody”. Ultimately, our courts settled on the much more benign and neutral term “Parenting time.”

As can be seen from the Parenting Plan attached, we now say the children are in the parental care of X at the following times and Y at other times. (Gone is the term visitation.)

Parental cooperation should consist of: (a) A flexible, predictable schedule of access so that the expectations of children are not disappointed; (b) An understanding and joint planning of activities to avoid conflicts and to foster harmony; (c) An agreement regarding gift giving to prevent “sugar-daddying” by either parent; and (d) Regular baby-sitting arrangements with capable sitters (preferably licensed). The best result is most often achieved when parents allow the other to provide care when they are unable. Such a result also verifies our law which states that parents are preferred over third parties.

Younger children tend to need more predictability in their lives. The fact that mom and dad are no longer together is unsettling. While children are adaptable, they need reassurance they are not being abandoned. They need to feel secure. The more clear cut and easy to understand their structured surroundings the easier it will be for them to adapt and the less likely they will act out and create problems.

The best route to follow is for parents to “jointly advise” their children that “while mom and dad are going their separate ways, they will always come first and be taken care of.” It’s all about providing a secure feeling and environment.

Where a strong bond exists between a child and both parents, regular overnight time with both is not only beneficial but mandated. We know that ongoing conflict between parents does nothing but harm children and deprives them of much needed stability.