Time with your children is precious, especially if they do not live with you most of the time. When parents are not married, one parent usually gets to spend more time developing a closer relationship with the child while the interests of the other parent get pushed aside.
That should not happen. At Tessie D. Edwards & Associates, P.C., we want to protect your rights as a parent and will fight to ensure you have the parenting opportunities you deserve.
How a Parenting Plan Should Work
Parents who are divorced or who never married are supposed to have a fair and effective parenting plan in place. The plan should settle key issues such as:
- Physical custody (Where the child is physically. This can be joint physical custody, 50/50 physical custody or sole physical custody)
- A schedule of parenting time or visitation (should cover holidays and summer break)
- Legal custody (could be shared or belong solely to one parent and covers issues regarding education, non-emergency health care, extra-curricular activities and religion)
- Child support
- Transportation for parenting time
- Access to records
- How the plan will be adjusted in the future
A lawyer familiar with the rules regarding parenting time and with experience negotiating parenting plans could work to ensure that you end up with a plan that is in your child’s best interest and protects your interests while adequately describing obligations going forward.
Parents can develop a parenting plan outside of court with the assistance of their legal advisors. If the plan meets legal guidelines, the court will be happy to approve it. If parents are unable to reach an agreement and create their own plan, the court will devise a plan they believe is in the child’s best interest but it may not be satisfactory to either parent.
Custody vs. Parenting Time
Understanding the allocation of parental authority and parenting time can be a challenge. Custody is a term that refers to both living arrangements (physical custody) and the power to make decisions about a child’s life (legal custody). Both issues are addressed separately.
Parents can share joint physical custody, but this requires considerable cooperation and living arrangements that allow a child to switch from one parent’s home to another without a major disruption in school, relationships, and other parts of life. Often one parent is granted “primary” physical custody and the child lives with that parent the majority of the time. The other parent is granted a certain amount of visitation or parenting time to physically be with the child.
In many cases, both parents may share legal custody of a child even if the child lives primarily with only one parent. When legal custody is held jointly, both parents have a say in decisions involving matters such as education, religious upbringing, medical care, activities, and other issues.
When Visitation is Supervised or Denied
Courts presume it is in a child’s best interests to have meaningful contact with both parents. That means even if a parent does not get physical custody, that parent usually will have significant parenting time or visitation allotted. This time is usually set up according to a specific schedule with a separate schedule for vacations and holidays. An experienced visitation lawyer can help establish a schedule that provides certainty for children and reduces conflict between parents.
If someone has raised concerns about a child’s safety, the court might order supervised visitation. While these types of visits are often not very satisfactory to parents, when they show they can comply with rules, then unsupervised visits are more likely to be allowed in the future.
If the court believes visitation is likely to cause physical or emotional harm to a child, the court could deny parenting time entirely. It is important for a parent to make sure the court hears their side of a story so the visitation rights are not unjustifiably restricted or denied.
Work with an Experienced Visitation Lawyer in Atlanta
Having the right attorney advocate on your behalf can make a tremendous difference in the allocation of parenting time and enforcing your right to visitation. If your parenting plan is not yet final or you are dissatisfied with your current visitation arrangements, you owe it to yourself and your child to find out how to get the best arrangement for your family. Contact Tessie D. Edwards and Associates to learn how we could help.