What Is The Difference Between A Parenting Timeshare Plan And Child Custody?

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County divorce mediators; California divorce mediatorsBy:  Gerald Maggio, Esq.

There are two types of custody: physical and legal. Each type can be joint or sole. For example, a couple may share joint physical and legal custody or a couple may have joint legal custody while one parent has sole physical. There are many different combinations of custody. It is easy to confuse the label of joint or sole custody with parenting time. Parenting time is the actual time each parent spends with the minor children and it can change over time. Parenting time can also be negotiated between the parents or exchanged as long as the parents agree but custody can only be changed by a court of law.

Parents who have joint legal or joint physical custody may not have 50/50 parenting time. Similarly, a parent who has sole physical custody may only have 50% parenting time. How is that possible? Parenting plans are either created by parents, who then submit a stipulation to the court, or are created and ordered by the court. A parenting plan lays out the specific times a child is with each parent.

For example, a parenting plan may state the minor children are with the father every other weekend from 5pm on Friday to 8pm on Sunday and on every Wednesday from after school until Thursday morning at 9am. The parenting plan provides the framework for who is actually caring for the children every day of the week. In some cases, the parenting plan is specific enough to account for every minute of the week.

As children get older, parents may have less input on the parenting plan because teenagers have more input on where they want to spend their weekends. Teenagers may have to work on weekdays and may not be able to go to the noncustodial parent’s home during the week.

While the parenting plan may change as children get older and get more involved in school activities, sports, or work, the custody determinations do not change. That means that parents who have joint physical custody may continue to have joint physical custody even though the parenting plan may change drastically from the time children are young until they get into and through high school.

A parenting plan provides structure for parents and children alike and can avoid potential spur-of-the-moment arguments which can be difficult for everyone. Creating a plan, whether included in a court order or not, gives everyone a predictable schedule which can run smoothly without last minute arguments.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact California Divorce Mediators at (949) 553-0911 or at www.cadivorcemediators.com.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”