If kids are involved, clients want to know what they can expect for parenting time. First off, parents need to realize that there is no “wrong” answer. Rather, the Courts are going to make a decision based on the information you provide that outlines what is best. This is a tough task for any Judge who is likely getting two different suggestions as to what is best. This then leads parents wondering whether there are guidelines that Courts must follow. There is a guidebook floating around the internet that was recommended by the Minnesota Advisory Task Force on Visitation and Child Support Enforcement. Clients sometimes stumble on the recommendations and wonder how they relate to Court proceedings. Courts are not mandated to follow what was presented by the Advisory Task Force. Rather, the Courts must make its determination based on what is best for your child(ren).
What is the Guidebook?
The Guide provides suggested parenting time for children of various ages. For example, the guide suggests the following for an infant:
Parents of infants should establish a parenting time schedule that is consistent, predictable, and routine in nature. Depending upon the noncustodial parent’s availability and caregiving history, the noncustodial parent of an infant should have short (one to three hour) but frequent (two to three times per week) parenting time during the day or early evening.
For elementary age school children, the guide suggests the following:
While many elementary school age children benefit from a primary home base, children at this stage of development can also benefit from spending longer periods of time with their noncustodial parent, assuming that they have developed and maintained a close relationship with that parent.
Before you run to the other parent and cite the recommendations to support your position on parenting time, realize that the recommendations also state, “[r]ather than rigidly applying these parenting time suggestions, parents are strongly encouraged to apply them in a way that best meets the specific developmental needs of each child.” This quote comes into play when the ultimate question is now coming to mind, do the Court’s follow the guidelines?
For more information, check out the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s instructions on parenting time.
How Do Judges Use the Recommended Guidelines?
In my experience, I have seen parenting time that closely resembles the recommendations without the judge ever stating that the recommendations are the basis for his/her decision. On the other hand, I vividly remember an opposing attorney arguing that the Court should follow the recommendations. The judge, though, frankly told the other attorney he didn’t care what the recommendations suggested is best. That judge wanted to know what was best for the child at the center of the dispute. In that case, the Court ordered a parenting schedule that was drastically different from the recommended guidelines. The ultimate purpose of the guide is help parents and not judge’s figure out parenting time on their own.
How Should I Approach Parenting Time?
Every judge is different. When you have to resort to a judge deciding parenting time, the best way to approach parenting time is to think very carefully about what you think is best for the your child(ren). What can help is to go through the best interest factors found here. These factors are what the Court considers when granting parenting time. Pretend each factor is a question and list out what you think is best. Do not rely on the recommended guidelines as the “end all.” As the guidelines state, every child is unique. Your child is unique. The guidebook can be helpful in understanding how to approach parenting time. Also, understand that parenting time is fluid. If you have an infant, parenting time will likely need to be changed as your child gets older. As your child gets older, his/her needs will change and parenting time will likely need to change around those needs.
The recommendations, if anything, are a tool for you to start to understand ways to approach parenting time. It is not helpful to use the guidelines as a sword. What is in the guidebook may not be best for your child(ren). Parenting time will need to be addressed. That parenting time will be based solely on what is best for your child(ren) regardless of what is recommended in the guidebook.
If you have any questions about what parenting time may be recommended for your child(ren), please call me today at 651-647-0087 or reach out via our online contact form to set up your free consultation.