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Parenting Access in Child Custody

Child Custody

Family court has proven time and again that their agenda appears to be quite opposite of what many of us expect. Especially with respect to child custody and parenting time. The standard is the best interests of the child but that does not always seem to be match the outcome of court rulings. A lot of times parents think they are doing what falls in line with the best interests standards. However, to their dismay they find out that their efforts are often minimized, ignored or even, penalized by the system.

Parenting access is an improvement goal of family court. Parenting access is the time the noncustodial parent gets to spend with their child, to communicate with their child and be informed of important things in their child’s life. This article will address how Parenting access is factored in the child custody case.


“Good” and “Not so Good” Co-parenting is Still Coparenting


The Best Interests Standards in Child Custody

The best interests of the child in custody matters are the standard all the family courts use to decide what is best for children mental, physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. There is no specific law, but each state has come up with its own set of factors to help it make its determination.

These factors examine the child’s circumstances as well as the circumstances of the parents when the issue is custody. The objective is to ensure that the child’s needs are not overlooked when weighed against the parents’ capabilities. Conversely, looking at the parents’ circumstances from a realistic perspective is just as important. For example, the parents’ mental and physical health are factored in just as the children are.

Parenting Access as a Child Custody Factor

Another factor the courts consider is each parent’s effort and participation in facilitating a nurturing relationship between the child and the other parent. This means taking measures to arrange time for the other parent to spend with the child, keeping the lines of communication open between the other parent and child and informing the other parent of major changes in the child’s life.

(See Delaware’s list of factors.)

From a practical standpoint, rearranging your schedule to accommodate the other parent, being inconvenienced by traveling a little further than usual, allowing the child to have phone or video calls and so on, are examples of fostering a nurturing relationship. Showing that you are on board with the other parent maintaining a loving relationship with your child typically carries more weight than any “flaws” they can bring up in court.

How to Use Parenting Access Factor Effectively

As I mentioned above, everything does not always work out the way we intend them to in Family Court. Unfortunately, this happens in more cases than not. (Which is exactly why my services focus on strategy more than law, learn more here.) One of the main reasons people are highly disappointed in their custody outcome is because they fail to take the time to learn the courts ‘inner workings”. They do not learn the court’s language; it is rationale for its moves or its overall goals.

The parenting access factor is an important element with respect to the court’s goals. As I mentioned, the court has an interest in ensuring that the child has a healthy relationship with each parent. At the same token, if you are not mindful of how it intercepts with the other factors it can backfire.

Parenting access is an important factor, but it is not the only one. Most courts utilize a range of 8-12 factors to determine custody. Parenting access can be a specific factor on the list or can encompass a few of them. In other words, State A can look directly at the frequency of visits the custodial parent allows with the noncustodial parent. While State B can look at a combination of things that are not as direct but within context.

(Compare Virginia’s factors with Illinois’ factors to see how they differ in language.)

Because of the differences in how the states list their factors and how the courts examine them, litigants need to understand how they impact the final custody decision. Having clear insight on how the parenting access looks in the grand scheme of things is vital.

For instance, will allowing the child more time at the noncustodial parent’s home give the impression that the custodial parent does not want the child at home? Will encouraging communication between them support the other parent’s petition for joint custody? These are just some things to keep in mind, not as a deterrent but in planning and present your case.

In conclusion

Family Court is tricky with custody cases. If you take actions from a limited perspective, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.

If you wish to schedule a FREE 15min consultation to discuss my services in your custody matter, please feel free to do that here.

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