The process of adjusting to divorce can be challenging enough for children without factoring in the difficulty of adapting to different living arrangements and new locations. It’s important to set up a consistent visitation or time-sharing schedule they can rely on and get comfortable with as quickly as possible.
The following are some of the key factors to consider when drawing up your new time-sharing agreement:
1) Your legal situation. You’ll need to complete basic legal forms and, depending on your divorce case, may need to establish a permanent visitation or time-sharing schedule in court. In some cases, a paternity test may even be needed to establish parental rights.
2) Children’s ages. Children ages six to 10 may do best with frequent visitations with each parent throughout the week, but younger children may need more stability in their locations without extending their stays to more than a week. Infants and toddlers should only be subjected to time-sharing for a few hours at a time, while you may need to factor in time spent with peers for pre-adolescents and teens.
3) The importance of parenting time. Your children need parenting from both parents, so don’t punish a parent who is tardy for visitation or behind on child support parents by withholding visitation rights. On the other hand, do enforce rules regarding lateness, as it’s not healthy for children to be waiting on a late parent consistently.
4) Open communication. Don’t cut your children of from communication with their other parent during your time with them. Allowing them to call, text or write their other parent during appropriate times is beneficial for the parent-child relationship in general, and teaches them a good model of communication.
5) Your level of conflict. If you and your ex-spouse are experiencing a significant level of conflict with no end in sight, try to maintain consistency for your children by reducing both the length of each time-sharing period and the number of transitions between locations. Time-sharing may even need to be held at a neutral location. If you are on good terms, however, you may be able to set up an open, flexible time-sharing arrangement.
6) Their safety. Consider whether your children’s visits with their other parents need to be supervised, whether they should take place at a neutral location, whether the other parent should be allowed to transport the children anywhere and whether the children or their other parent have any medical considerations. Also avoid having children make a long commute, asking the other parent to come to them instead.
Focusing on what is best for your children, rather than what is most convenient for you, is the best way to ensure they adjust quickly and well to their new lifestyles.
BoltNagi is a respected and well-established family law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.