Delaware Custody and Visitation Schedules
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
The Delaware Code, Title 13, Domestic Relations contains the laws pertaining to child custody and visitation for the state.
It is important to become acquainted with these laws when you are making a child visitation schedule so you can ensure your schedule is in compliance with the statutes of the State of Delaware.
Delaware bases the decisions of child custody matters on the best interests of the child, and recognizes the fact that in most cases, the child benefits from ongoing contact with both parents.
If you can create a child visitation schedule that both parents agree upon while incorporating these components, it is the best way to have your schedule accepted by the Court.
Delaware has two types of child custody:
- Joint legal custody means parents share the responsibilities of raising the child and divide their time with the child in an equitable (though not necessarily equal) manner.
- Sole legal custody means one parent is primarily responsible for the care giving of the child and the child primarily resides with that parent, while the other parent is afforded visitation with the child (13 Del. C. § 727).
Regardless of the custody arrangement, both parents are entitled to reasonable telephone contact and reasonable contact by mail with the child, and both parents have the right to be informed of any significant information in the child's life.
This includes, but is not limited to, information pertaining to the child's education, such as report cards, conferences, and school activities. It also applies to the child's medical needs, religious activities and special events, as well as any other important activities the parents may wish to participate in.
The State of Delaware may award custody to either parent, and does not discriminate based on the gender of the parent (13 Del. C. § 722.b).
Prior to living apart, both parents were equally responsible for the duties involved with raising the child and each parent had equal power with respect to the child. No presumption of superiority or parental incapability should be inferred from an award of custody from the Court (13 Del. C. § 701).
Chapter 722 explicitly states that the court will determine legal custody and residential arrangements for a child in accordance with the best interests of the child. This is essential for you to think about as you create your custody and visitation schedule.
The law gives some factors that parents should think about that affect the best interest of the child:
- The wishes of the parents regarding custody and the residential arrangements
- The wishes of the child as to a custodian and residential arrangements
- The relationship and interaction the child has with his/her parents, siblings, grandparents, persons cohabiting with the parents, other residents of the parents' households, any other persons who significantly affect the child
- Past and present compliance by both parents with their rights and responsibilities to their child
- If there has been any domestic violence or criminal behavior by either parent
These factors can help you as you make decisions about your schedule. For example, as you think about where your child will spend the holidays, you should consider if your child has regular holiday traditions with extended family.
If it is important for your child to participate in those traditions, your schedule should allow it. You can also think about the roles that each parent has played in the past and make the visitation schedule according to what the child is used to.
The Court makes the ultimate decision regarding child custody and visitation, but will always consider the wishes of parents who submit their own schedule.
The court lacks the intimate knowledge of your child that you, as parents, have. Therefore, it is in your child's best interests to set your differences aside and come together to create an amicable child visitation schedule.
You are free to submit any child custody and visitation schedule that you feel will work for your child. The standard or traditional schedules can be modified to suit your child needs, or you may wish to create a customized child visitation schedule that is as unique as your child is.
You should make every effort to provide the Court with an alternative to the old standard, even if the other parent refuses to cooperate.
It provides the court with some insight and an option to consider.
Your child visitation schedule should be as detailed as possible. If all the details are carefully planned out and documented, this will help prevent parental disputes in the future. The schedule should be structured, but have some room for flexibility. It should also include provisions to enable future modifications as the needs of the child change as he or she matures and grows.
Some things you may want to include are:
- A comprehensive repeating schedule that defines the "normal" parenting times.
- A holiday schedule that includes pick up and drop off times. (For example, rather than just stating that "Thanksgiving will be with the mother in odd years", you will want to specify the days and times: "Mother shall have the child on Thanksgiving in odd years from 4pm Wednesday until 6pm Friday", etc.).
- What to do when a holiday falls on a three day weekend.
- What to do when special days, such as birthdays, fall during holiday or vacation times.
- How to handle personal vacations, as it is difficult to pinpoint exact vacation times, especially year after year.
- Provisions for Mother's Day, Father's Day and the child and parents' birthdays.
- How to handle special or unforeseen family events, such as funerals, and what will be considered to be a "special family event".
- Whether or not time missed can be "made up". There are rules in place for parents that obstruct visitation time with the other parent, but not for parents who miss their visitation on their own accord.
- Who will be responsible for transporting the child, and where the exchange of the child shall take place.
There are endless possibilities and points that can be addressed when making your Delaware child visitation schedule, but the details only enrich the schedule.
Submitting an organized, carefully planned out, child-friendly visitation schedule that supports your child's best interests is the best way to ensure your schedule is accepted by and made an order of the Court.
The top ten cities in Delaware (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Wilmington, Dover, Newark, Pike Creek, Bear, Brookside, Hockessin, Glasgow, Claymont, North Star.