Avoid unsupervised gaps in child’s schedule
One of the loose ends that often explodes into a controversial issue in Family Court is when a young child is being left alone for a period of time because of his parents’ work schedule or other obligations. Consider, for example, the case in which the children are delivered home by the school bus at about 3:30 p.m. but their mother does not return home until 5:00 p.m. Or what about a non-custodial parent who disappears for a few hours during his parenting time because of a new schedule at work?
Of course, “life happens,” and it is sometimes difficult to balance the desire to spend quality time with the children with the need to hold on to a job. Unfortunately, unsupervised gaps in a child’s daily schedule are fertile ground for the other parent to attack in a child custody proceeding. For example, if children are being left alone for an hour after school before the custodial parent returns home, the non-custodial parent can argue that the children should go to his home after school every day instead — or at least until the custodial parent gets home. Significant gaps could justify a complete rewrite of the custody and visitation schedule.
It is no automatic resolution to enlist the assistance of a helpful neighbor. While it may make sense to have the kids hang with Betty next door until Mommy gets home from work, this gap in time still creates an opportunity for the non-custodial parent. In such cases, the non-custodial parent could argue: “The children are spending as much time each week with Betty next door as they are with me, your honor. I’m respectfully asking the Court to modify the custody and visitation schedule”
So, while it may be difficult to balance children, work and the rest of your life, the best way to avoid a challenge in Family Court is to avoid these unsupervised gaps in the child’s schedule.