Part one of this blog introduced the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (“AAML”) and the AAML’s new publication addressing the division of parenting time for families going through divorce or separation, titled Child Centered Residential Guidelines (“AAML Guidelines”). Here we will delve into an examination of the publication and summarize the AAML Guidelines.
Introduction to the AAML
The first section of the publication is of course the introduction. The introduction states the purpose of the AAML Guidelines as to provide guidance to parents and those charged with parenting plans. It states that they may be useful in resolving time disputes, but even though samples are provided, doesn’t stop parents/lawyers/mediators/judges from creating alternate plans. It also notes that these are only regarding residential provisions of parenting plans, and does not address any other provisions that are commonly found in such plans.
What is Best for the Child(ren)
From there, the AAML Guidelines then moves on to a section titled “Children do best when.” Unless special circumstances are present, the publication states that “the preservation of ongoing relationships between children and both parents is of greatest importance as children report the loss of one parent as the most negative aspect of divorce.” It discusses research listing circumstances under which children do the best. For example, children do best when their parents have a predictable schedule and don’t interfere with each others parenting time, etc. That is followed by a separate list of things that directly or indirectly cause stress to children. For example, some situations which may cause a child stress are when the child witnesses parents fighting or when the child is asked to keep secrets from the other parent, and more.
The AAML Guidelines state that the family circumstances and child’s characteristics must be assessed before choosing an appropriate plan. Some of the factors included in this assessment are the parent-child relationships, parental communication, the child’s age, special needs, and more.
The AAML Guidelines state that the parenting plan should not be based on the amount of time that the parent has spent with the child, but rather on the parent’s ability and willingness to parent along with the needs of the particular child. The guidelines are presented based on the age of the child:
- 0-9 months: The process of attachment begins at this age, and is important for both parents to have frequent contact during all caretaking activities so that this attachment can develop. Communication regarding the baby’s needs is key at this age.
- 9-24 months: Consistency is key at this time, and some children are better able to handle change than others. 4 factors are set out for developing a plan at this age: 1) parent’s ability to be responsive to child’s needs, 2) the child’s temperament, 3) involvement in caretaking routines, and 4) the child’s developmental milestones.
- 24 months to 3 years: Children at this age need predictable and consistent routines, so sharing information between parents is extremely important. Depending on parenting skills and the child’s temperament, parents may be able to share time equally at this age, but the separations from each parent shouldn’t be too long; typically not for more than 2 or three days at a time.
- 3yrs to 5 years: Children at this age need routine. The Guidelines recommend a 2-2-3 or 2-2-2 plan in cases where both parents have been involved and the child manages well with transitions.
- 6yrs to 9yrs: A consistent and predictable schedule causes children of this age group less stress. There are a variety of different plans may be appropriate here, and samples plans are provided in this section of the publication.
- 10yrs to 12yrs: At this age, parents should be taking into account the child’s activities and friendships. A variety of plans would work here, but 2-5-5-2 is mentioned, and once the child is in 6th or 7th grade, the Guidelines say that an alternating week plan might work.
- 13yrs to 18yrs: As children gain more independence and partake in more of their own activities, parental communication is especially important at this age range. A variety of plans would work here, and the Guidelines say that around age 16 the child should have some input in the schedule.
The AAML Guidelines then go on to address specific holiday, vacation, and school break schedules. For holidays, parents are directed to take traditions into consideration and be mindful of the number of transitions. Vacation time should be allowed for parents, but the amount of time needs to take into consideration the age and temperament of the child.
The final sections of the publication address long-distance parenting and other special considerations that may be at issue in a particular case. This includes breast feeding, special needs of the child, resistance to visitation, parents that were never married, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, same-sex relationships, and military parents.
Please contact us if you have any questions regarding parenting plans and what plan may best suit the needs of you and your child. We understand that this is a sensitive situation that could greatly affect your family and your relationship with your children, and our team can provide you with the caring and outstanding legal counsel you need and deserve. If you would like to discuss your rights under California’s child custody laws, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
Nancy J. Bickford, a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Please call 858-793-8884 to understand how she can help your child custody battle begin and end with keeping your kids where they belong: With you.