If you and your child’s other parent are ending your romantic relationship but both plan to remain active parents, you’ll need to construct an arrangement that is manageable, predictable yet flexible, and that reflects your child’s best interests.
Constructing a solid child custody agreement and accompanying parenting plan is not an easy or straightforward process, even under the best of circumstances. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take lots of deep breaths, to clarify what it is you believe is in your child’s best interests, and what you need to make this co-parenting relationship work before you begin.
As an experienced child custody lawyer – including those who practice at Hurst, Robin & Kay, LLC, – can confirm, states use many different words and phrases to describe periods wherein a child resides with one parent or the other. The term that is used with increasing frequency (partially because it is far more representative of reality than the word “visitation” allows for) is “parenting time.”
Parenting time can refer to custody and/or parenting plan arrangements. For the purposes of constructing a plan of action, you can think of “parenting time” as any period wherein your child is spending time with you or their other parent per the terms of your child custody and/or parenting plan arrangement.
Regardless of whether you have primary or joint custody of your child, if you are co-parenting, there are times when your child is going to be residing or spending time with their other parent. It’s developmentally important for children to remain connected to both of their (fit) parents and for their (fit) parents to remain engaged in their life. Therefore, you’ll want to consider parenting time provisions that facilitate regular communication and interaction.
When your child is with you, they’ll need ways to connect with their other parent. When they’re with their other parent, they’ll need ways to connect with you. This is where living in The Digital Age comes in handy for co-parents. You and your child’s other parent can include so-called “virtual visitation” provisions in your co-parenting documentation.
Virtual visitation is essentially any means of electronic communication. Depending on your child’s age, attention span, comprehension level, and disabilities, you could potentially include one or more of the following ideas in your co-parenting arrangements on whatever schedule meets your child’s unique needs:
- Telephone conversations
- Zoom chats or other virtual screen-based conversation platform engagement
- Playing recorded bedtime stories via an audio app
- Playing virtual games together
- Connecting on social media
If you and your child’s other parent can come to an agreement about your virtual visitation terms – with or without the assistance of an attorney, as they may be able to simply finalize your proposal if you draft it yourself – a judge probably won’t need to weigh in on your arrangement. But, if your co-parent doesn’t agree to these terms and they’re important to you and your child, you’ll need to speak with a lawyer about fighting for these rights.