They Come First
Your children are the most important consideration in a divorce or paternity action. There are two major issues that will affect your children and your parenting going forward: Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time. Legal Decision Making involves decisions for children in the areas of education, health, religion and personal care. Legal Decision Making is most often shared jointly between the parents, giving each an equal say. In rare situations, there may be reasons why joint decision making simply can’t work and one parent will need to have final decision making authority. A parenting time schedule will also need to be decided that will define where the children spend time during a regular week, as well as a schedule for holidays and breaks from school. It is important that any parenting time schedule be specific as to exchange times and locations, so both parents and children know what to expect. There are many different schedules that can be created around the events and traditions that are important to your family.
In order to finalize paternity, dissolution, or legal separation matters involving children, a written Parenting Plan must be prepared which will include not only decision making and parenting time, but will also serve as a road-map for the parents that lays out how they will share responsibility for the children and communicate with one another. It is designed to prevent future disagreements and make sure that both parents know and understand their rights and responsibilities.
When the parents cannot agree about decision-making or parenting time, a judge must make the decision. The judge’s decision will be based on specific statutory factors designed to determine the “best interests” of the children. In considering these factors, the judge may order evaluations or interviews, often performed by mental health professionals. The evaluations may include psychological testing for the parents, home visits, interviews with the children, observing the children with each parent, and gathering documents and information from teachers, doctors, friends, and family. The results of these evaluations are often insightful and can guide the parties to a settlement with the children’s best interests in mind.
Divorce is not an easy process for anyone. You have finally decided to end your marriage, but when you have children, the relationship with your former spouse will continue. You and your spouse must commit to interacting and working together for the benefit of the children. To learn the many ways your case can be resolved, visit the Our Services page.