The law changed January 1st of this year, which indicated that they would now be called parental rights and responsibilities. What that means is there are the parental rights, decision-making, which are four things: religion, education, medical, and extracurricular activities. All other decisions are made by the party who has the children at the time the decision needs to be made.
The other half of it is parenting time. Parenting time is what used to be called visitation. Parents don’t visit their children, parents parent their children. We want to make it clear that when people are having time with their children, it’s not supposed to be a vacation; it’s supposed to be parenting time. It can be a vacation, but for the most part, they need to be the parents, not the visitor.
Same with the decisions. The decisions can be divided as one person having them all, both of them having equal, one of them having one, one having two, one having three – it depends. It all depends on the parents. The thing that parents most need to know about this new statute is to stop using the word custody. Custody doesn’t mean anything in the divorce world other than decision-making and they live with both of their parents. There isn’t an argument to be made that one person is primary. They’re both primary in the children’s lives, and the focus is on the kids.
With 30 years of experience in family law, Laura M. Urbik Kern is a certified mediator and family lawyer who concentrates on dissolution, family and juvenile law, child support, and complex domestic relations cases.