One of the most difficult aspects of a separation or divorce is deciding how to share responsibility and custody of the children. There is a commonly used phrase that courts use when making a ruling about custody; “the best interest of the child,” but what does it mean? If the parents cannot come to mutually agreed to terms of custody and visitation, how do the courts determine WHAT is the best interest of the child?

Child Centered Guidelines

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) has published the AAML Child-Centered Residential Guidelines. These guidelines are a resource for courts to determine what is the developmentally and psychologically appropriate plan for where and how to place children regarding custody and visitation. These guidelines can also aid parents in making informed decisions for their children’s future.

Required or Suggestions?

The guidelines are not fixed or definitive rules for courts to impose, but rather they are a suggestion for parents, attorneys, judges, mental health professionals, mediators, therapists etc. to use to avoid disagreements and disputes as to how much time each parent receives with their children. Using available research on childhood psychological and emotional development, the AAML Guidelines take into account the age, maturity, specific circumstances, and unique characteristics of each child to determine the healthiest (physically, mentally, and emotionally) place for the child to be placed.

One size fits all?

These guidelines give suggested parenting plans based on the research available. For example, a toddler from age 24 months to 3 years may have a suggested plan of no overnights with the non-custodial parent but 4-6 hours of visitation every other day, whereas a preschooler may have a plan that allows them to live with each parent 2 days on 2 days off. Each of these children are in a different place developmentally and have different needs regarding stability, fostering a parent/child relationship etc.

The AMML Guidelines also have suggestions regarding holidays, vacations, school breaks, long distant parenting options, special circumstances such as breastfeeding, any abuse in the home, incarcerated parents etc. to take the “what if’s” out of the equation. As stated above, they are suggestions that are accompanied with a small explanation as to WHY these suggestions are thought to be in the best interest of the child.

Contact an attorney to determine if your arrangement should change

If you are in the process of determining your custody arrangement with your ex-partner or would like to make a change to your scheduled arrangement, you may consider hiring an attorney who specializes in family law and is familiar with the guidelines used to determine the scheduling of visitation. Contact  The Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack via our online form or call 480-345-2652.