The most important issues in any family law case involve the children of the relationship. Our Family Law attorneys understand the paramount need to safeguard the children from any type of harm during a divorce proceeding. The primary focus of the Courts with regard to child custody and parenting time is to further the best interests of the children. In applying a best interest analysis, the Courts consider all of the facts and circumstances in a case and endeavor to craft a solution that minimizes adverse impact on the children and any disruption in their lives.

There are two specific types of custody that are dealt with in a family law matter. The first is referred to as "legal" custody. Legal custody relates to the major decision-making with regard to the children of the relationship. This would include major decisions regarding the children's education, healthcare, religion, and extended periods of time away from the family home. The second type of custody is referred to as "physical" or "residential" custody. This determines which party the children will reside with on a primary and secondary basis. The primary custodial parent is referred to as the "parent of primary residence" or the "PPR". The other parent is referred to as the "parent of alternate residence" or the "PAR".

In determining issues involving both legal custody and physical/residential custody, the Court again employs a best interest evaluation. The Court endeavors to consider all of the relevant facts in the case in an effort to reach an equitable solution that furthers the best interest of the children.

Parenting time, formally referred to as visitation, involves crafting a schedule upon which each parent would enjoy time with his or her children. There are several different aspects of parenting time which must be addressed in each and every case. These include regular parenting time, special occasion parenting time, holiday parenting time, and vacation parenting time. Regular parenting time refers to a schedule upon which the parents of a child will spend time with the child on a week-to-week basis. Special occasion parenting time refers to time spent with a child on each parent's birthday, on the child's birthday, and on Mother's Day and Father's Day. Holiday parenting time involves the division of parenting time with the child during holiday periods. This not only includes Federal- and State-designated holidays, but also extends to religious and foreign holidays. Lastly, vacation parenting time refers to extended periods of parenting time during which each parent may take the child for the purposes of annual vacations.

When establishing custody schemes and parenting time schedules, it is important to take into consideration not only the immediate circumstances facing the parties, but also to consider the future circumstances affecting both the children and the parents. For an agreement to work in both the short and long term, it is essential that the agreement is structured and at the same time has components which are flexible.

Even after the execution of a Property Settlement Agreement or the entry of a Final Judgment of Divorce, the issues of child custody and parenting time can always be revisited and modified based on a showing of significant changed circumstances. Again, the Courts handle this on a case-by-case basis as these determinations are fact sensitive. Be it the initial establishment of a custody arrangement or parenting time schedule, or a subsequent modification of same, the Family Law attorneys at Hoagland Longo are highly trained and experienced and able to assist you in resolving these issues with minimal adverse impact upon the children.

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