Social trends usually move ahead of the government. And when it comes to how child custody is written into a divorce agreement, California lags surprisingly behind many other states.
Historically, custody arrangements involved a primary parent and the ex-spouse who was given visitation rights. But as more ex-spouses want their roles as parents to be equally balanced, such words as “visitation” are being eliminated and replaced with neutral language such as “time-sharing” or “parenting time.” All terms outlined under the portion of the divorce agreement that pertain to minor children are sometimes now called a “parenting plan.”
This language is not acknowledged in California statutes, but attorneys use portions thereof with some frequency. But most important, according to child development experts, is that the following considerations guide the parenting plan development and implementation:
What’s in the best interests of the children - First and foremost, it has to focus on their needs.
Terms should be age-appropriate - The time needs of an infant differ from a 5-year-old or a 15-year-old. Parenting roles and time allocations need to reflect this.
Which parent is more likely to allow frequent contact with the other parent? - The parent who may have the greatest time commitment to the children should also be willing to share that time with the ex-spouse. Particularly with younger children, both parents should have frequent and continuing contact with them.
While many couples experience hostility in the earlier phases of a divorce, that may change with time and the parenting plan might be altered.