Parenting time (previously referred to as “child access”) refers to when either of the parents is seeing or exercising time with a child of the relationship. For example, if parents separate, it may be the case that the child is residing with one parent and has parenting time with the other parent on weekends, weekday evenings, or for extended periods of time during holidays or during the summer. Alternatively, parents may equally share parenting time on a week-on/week-off basis.
A child’s residence is where the child habitually resides and with whom. Again, if parents separate, the child might reside with one parent and see or have parenting time with the other parent at set times.
Decision making responsibilities (previously referred to as “child custody”) refers to which parent has the legal right to have input on decisions regarding a child. This includes those decisions surrounding the child’s healthcare, schooling, and religion. Joint decision making responsibilities (previously referred to as “joint custody”) results in both parents sharing responsibility over those decisions that affect the child. Parents may share decision making responsibilities regardless of the parenting time they each receive. On the other hand, sole decision making responsibility (previously referred to as “sole custody”) generally means that only one parent has input over decisions regarding the child.
Though parenting time, child residence, and decision making responsibilities are all separate matters, they commonly overlap, can be confusing, and are often confused. It is important to keep in mind that, whether the issue is parenting time, a child’s residence, or decision making responsibilities, the Court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child.