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Child Custody and the Allocation of Parenting Time

In Kentucky, the minimum allocation of shared parenting time in a child custody case is done on a case by case basis, with the court always looking toward the best interests of the child. Under our Family Court Rules of Practice and Procedure, the minimum recommendation is every other weekend, with an overnight to occur midweek; however, given the time demands of the modern economy, working shifts do not necessarily follow patterns that work seamlessly with this type of schedule. Happily, in the Louisville area, we often find an increasing willingness to award more than the minimums and to work "outside the box" of traditional day shift schedules (provided that there is a suitable home environment). In order to see to it that children get significant interaction with both parents, courts are obligated to make allowances to accommodate the work needs of emergency service personnel, people working in health care and those who find themselves traveling in the course of their employment; this has now been extended to the current mix of flexible scheduling.

As a predisposition of Kentucky law, decisionmaking power in child custody cases is generally shared; big decisions are something which most parents are deemed responsible enough to reach through agreement, and this responsibility is recognized through joint custody. From a practical standpoint, however, many big decisions get made through how shared parenting time is allocated - the agreement of the parents as to which obtains the greater extent of time (or a judicial determination, if they can't agree) often determines where the children go to school, how much time they spend with siblings and extended family, how and where they spend their holidays and whether they will be moved out of Kentucky altogether.

While original custody determinations and modifications are intensely fact driven, a few major points arise in each case:

1. Why the immediately prior arrangement by agreement of the parties cannot continue.

2. Why the other party cannot offer up a suitable alternative.

3. What positives the new arrangement brings to the table.

4. What disruptions may be occasioned by the new arrangement.

5. Whether the new proposed arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

6. Whether the new arrangement is sustainable over a long period of time.

While the motivation for an arrangement regarding custody and the allocation of parenting time may not be altruistic (some arrangements are sought from either an emotional well of spite or a desire to affect child support expense), I tend to find that the questions of motivation are not generally dispositive of the nuts and bolts of how the new schedule works, as those stand on their own and are independent of motivation.