The parties were married for 11 years. During their marriage, they had two children who were age seven and five respectively. While the parties were married, the parties agreed that plaintiff would work outside the home and defendant would stay at home with the children and homeschool the children.
Interim Custody Order
Plaintiff filed for divorce in August 2020, and the parties met with the Friend of the Court to determine an interim custody and parenting time arrangement. In October 2020, the Friend of the Court recommended that plaintiff would have parenting time every other weekend from Friday at 6:00 p.m. until Monday morning, as well as every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Plaintiff objected to this recommendation, but the parties adhered to this parenting schedule during the pendency of this case.
Objection to Interim Custody Order
Four hearings were held before a referee regarding plaintiff’s objection to the interim custody and parenting time order. Plaintiff sought a 50-50 parenting time schedule and said that he would be willing to homeschool the children during his parenting time. Defendant asserted that the children struggled with homeschool on Mondays after returning from a weekend at plaintiff’s home. The referee determined that each parent had an established custodial environment (ECE) with the children. The referee analyzed each of the best-interest factors and recommended that the parties share joint physical custody of the two children on a week-on, week-off schedule. The referee implied that each parent would be responsible for homeschooling the children during their parenting time.
Objection to Referee’s Recommendation
Defendant objected to the referee’s recommendation. Defendant argued that it was not in the children’s best interests for the parties to alternate week-on, week-off parenting time because the children had stronger emotional bonds with defendant and because defendant was better able to manage the children’s significant medical issues and the children’s education. Defendant sought a parenting schedule in which she continued to homeschool the children full-time. Plaintiff responded to defendant’s objections and argued that joint physical custody was in the best interests of the children and requested that the trial court enter an order adopting the referee’s recommended custody and parenting time arrangement.
Trial Court Review Hearing
The trial court held a de novo review hearing. The court concluded that plaintiff’s request for 50-50 custody and request to homeschool the children was more about plaintiff’s needs and wants than the children’s best interests. The trial court ordered that defendant would continue to homeschool the children full-time and that plaintiff would have parenting time every Wednesday from noon until 8:00 p.m., as well as on weekends.
By the time of the trial court’s order, custody and parenting time of the children had been governed by the interim order for nearly a year. The trial court was appropriately mindful that from the children’s perspective, any change to their established custodial environment should be minimal.
Assistance With Custody
If you are going through a divorce or are separating from the mother or father of your children, it is important to protect your custodial rights. If the divorce or separation process does not turn out like you thought it would, you may not have the custody you deserve. Seek the advice and guidance of an experienced family law and divorce attorney.