Proposed South Dakota Shared Parenting Guidelines
As recommended by The South Dakota Coalition for Shared Parenting - March 14, 2003
A powerful cause of stress, suffering, and maladjustment in children of divorce is not simply divorce itself, but continuing conflict between parents, before, during, and after divorce. Similar conflicts can occur between parents who were never married. To minimize harm to their children, parents shall agree on a parenting arrangement (See Appendix A), within 30 days following separation, that is most conducive to frequent, meaningful and maximized contact for the children with both parents, with as little conflict as possible. The best arrangement is a detailed parenting agreement made by the parents to fit their particular needs, is practical and, more importantly, meets the needs of the children. If the parents are unable to agree, however, the following guidelines will be used, unless a different schedule is court ordered. A shared parenting arrangement will not be denied solely for the reason that one parent opposes such arrangement. If the parents are unable to agree, they are encouraged to seek additional assistance through knowledgeable family counselors, psychologists, mediators or other sources of assistance to develop a parenting plan for their children and to address cooperation for the best interest of their children.
1. GENERAL RULES
Parents will avoid speaking negatively about one another and firmly discourage such conduct by relatives or friends. In fact, the parents will speak in positive terms about the other parent in the presence of the children. Each parent will encourage the children to respect the other parent. Children will never be used by one parent to spy or report on the other. Both parents will consistently enforce rules of conduct and discipline, so that the children do not receive mixed messages about appropriate behavior.
Children will benefit from continued contact with all relatives and family friends on both sides of the family for whom they feel affection. Such relationships will be protected and encouraged. Relatives, like parents, need to avoid being critical of either parent, especially in front of the children. Parents will have their children maintain ties with both the maternal and paternal relatives. In South Dakota, grandparents have a legal right to reasonable time with their grandchildren, if it is in the best interests of the grandchildren. Usually the children will visit with the paternal relatives during times the children are with their father and with the maternal relatives during times they are with their mother. It is recommended that the parents prepare an annual calendar of agreed dates so that both the parents and the children know where the children will be during the coming year.
1.1 Child Relocation. Following separation, both parents are restrained from removing any minor child from the current school district without the written consent of the other parent or by an order of the court. Parents will work together on any potential relocation and will provide a minimum of 60 days notice to the other parent. A move of the children from their current environment may or may not be in the best interest of the children. Unless agree upon by both parents, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the children in this potential move. If approved, and the parenting time pattern changes, the court shall consider apportioning between the parents the children's travel costs necessary to facilitate substantial parenting time with the other parent. In apportioning these costs, the court will consider such factors as the economic circumstances of the parents and the reasons prompting the move.
1.2 Parental Communication. Parents will always keep each other
advised of their home and work addresses and telephone numbers. Whenever feasible, all communication concerning the children shall be conducted between the parents themselves in person, by E-mail, letter or by telephone, at their residences, and not at their places of employment.
1.3 School, Counseling and Medical Information. Under § 188.8.131.52, both parents shall receive grade reports and notices from school and are equally authorized to communicate concerning the child directly with the daycare, the school, and the children's doctors and other professionals outside the presence of the other parent. Unless there are abuse, neglect, criminal, or protection orders to the contrary, both parents shall also be listed as the children's parent and as an emergency contact with the daycare, the school, and all mental health and medical professionals. Each parent shall immediately notify the other of any medical emergencies or serious illnesses of the children. Both parents shall keep each other informed of all school or other events (for example, church or sports) involving parental participation. If the child is taking medications, either parent will provide a sufficient amount and appropriate instructions will be conveyed to the other parent.
1.4 Parenting Time Clothing. Both parents shall assure that the children have an appropriate supply of children's clothing with them when at either parent's home and clothing shall be returned clean upon return to the other parent. Both parents shall keep the other parent informed as far in advance as possible, of any special activities so that the appropriate clothing belonging to the children may be sent.
1.5 Withholding Support or Parenting Time. Neither parenting time nor child support is to be withheld because of either parent's failure to comply with a court order. Only the court may enter sanctions for non-compliance. Children have a right both to support and to parenting time, neither of which is dependent upon the other. In other words, no support does not mean no parenting time, and no parenting time does not mean no support. If there is a violation of either a parenting time or a support order, the exclusive remedy is to apply to the court for appropriate sanctions under § 25-4A-1, § 25-4A-2,
§ 25-4A-5, § 22-19-9, or § 28-1-66.
1.6 Adjustments in this Parenting Time Schedule. This schedule is to be understood as imposing specific requirements and responsibilities; however, when family necessities, illnesses, or commitments reasonably so require, the parents are expected to modify this schedule fairly. The parent requesting modification shall act in good faith and give as much notice as circumstances permit.
1.7 Parenting Time Responsibility. During the time a child resides with either parent, that parent shall decide all routine matters concerning the child. See § 25-5-7.2.
1.8 Parent's Vacation. Unless otherwise specified in a court order or agreed by the parents, both parents are entitled to a vacation with the children for a reasonable period of time, usually equal to the vacation time the other parent takes with the children. Both parents will plan a vacation during the time when the other parent is not scheduled to spend time with the children.
1.9 Insurance Forms. The parent who has medical insurance coverage on the children shall supply to the other parent an insurance card and, as applicable, insurance forms and a list of insurer-approved or HMO-qualified health care providers in the area where the other parent is residing. A parent who, except in an emergency, takes the children to a doctor, dentist, or other provider not so approved or qualified will pay the additional cost thus incurred. When there is a contemplated change in insurance which requires a change in medical care providers and a child has a chronic illness, thoughtful consideration will be given by the parents to what is more important, i.e., allowing the child to remain with the original provider or taking advantage of economic or medical benefits offered by the new carrier. When there is an obligation to pay medical expenses, the parent responsible therefore shall be promptly furnished with the bill by the other parent. The parents shall cooperate in submitting bills to the appropriate insurance carrier. Thereafter, the parent responsible for paying the balance of the bill shall make arrangements directly with the health care provider and shall inform the other parent of such arrangements. Insurance refunds will be promptly turned over to the parent who paid the bill for which the refund was received.
1.10 Child support abatement or Shared responsibility cross credit. Unless a court order otherwise provides, support shall not abate or be cross credited during any period when the children are with either parent.(South Dakota law allows for support abatement or a Shared responsibility cross credit. See § 25-7-6.14 and § 25-7-6.14, respectively. However, no abatement or cross credit may be taken unless there is a court order authorizing it.)
1.11 Missed Parenting Time. When events beyond either parent's control, such as illness, prevent a scheduled parenting time, a mutually agreeable substituted date shall be arranged. Each parent shall timely advise the other when a particular parenting time cannot be exercised. Missed parenting time will not be unreasonably accumulated.
1.12 Parenting Time - A Shared Experience. It usually makes sense for all the children to share the same schedule. Having brothers and sisters along may provide an important support for children. Infants have special needs that may prevent a parent from being with both infants and older children at the same time. Adolescents have special needs for peer involvement and for some control in their own lives that may place them on different schedules from their younger brothers and sisters. It is intended that parenting time be a shared experience between siblings unless determined otherwise through a court order.
1.13 Telephone Communication. Telephone calls between parent and child shall be liberally permitted at reasonable hours and at the expense of the calling parent. Each parent may call the children at reasonable hours when the children are with the other parent. The children may, of course, call either parent, though at reasonable hours and frequencies, and at the cost of the parent calling if it is a long distance call. During vacations the parent with whom the child is on vacation will make the child available for telephone calls every three days. At all other times, the parent with whom the child is staying shall not refuse to answer the phone or turn off the phone in order to deny the other parent telephone contact. If a parent uses an answering machine, messages left on the machine for the child will be returned. Parents will agree on a specified time for calls to the children so that the children will be made available. A parent may wish to provide a child with a telephone calling card to facilitate communication with that parent.
1.14 Mail and E-mail Contact. Parents have an unrestricted right to send cards, letters, packages, audio and videocassettes or CDs to their children. Children also have the same right to send items to their parents. Neither parent will interfere with this right. A parent may wish to provide a child with self-addressed, stamped envelopes for the child's use in corresponding with that parent. If the child and the parent have Internet capability, communication through e-mail will be fostered and encouraged.
1.15 Privacy of Residence. A parent may not enter the residence of the other except by express invitation of the resident parent, regardless of whether a parent retains a property interest in the residence of the other parent. Accordingly, the children shall be picked up and returned to the front entrance of the appropriate residence. The parent dropping off the children will not leave the premises until the children are safely inside. Parents will refrain from surprise visits to the other parent's home and will call ahead. A parent's time with the children is his or her own, and the children's time with that parent is equally private.
1.16 Special Considerations for Adolescents. Generally, these guidelines apply to adolescents as well as younger children. Nonetheless, within reason, the parents will honestly and fairly consider the wishes of their teenagers. Neither parent will attempt to pressure their teenager to make a parenting time decision adverse to the other parent. Teenagers should explain the reasons for their wishes directly to the affected parent, without intervention by the other parent.
1.17 Day Care Providers. When parents reside in the same community, they will use the same day care provider. The parents will rely on each other to care for the children when the other parent is unavailable.
1.18 Consideration for Deviation. Deviation from these Shared Parenting Guidelines may be determined through Court intervention only and proof that either parent has met the definition of (1) abuse or neglect as defined in § 26-8A-2; (2) domestic abuse as defined in § 35-10-1; (3) alcohol or drug abuse; (4) Kidnapping; (5) abandonment as determined through § 25-7-6.1 or (6) a bond condition arising out of a criminal case.
1.19 Long Interruption of Contact. In those situations where either parent has not had a continuing relationship the child for an extended period (e.g. establishment of paternity), parenting time will begin with brief periods and a gradual transition to the parenting schedule in these guidelines within 90 - 180 days.
1.20 Breast-Feeding Child. Forcibly weaning a child, whether breast-feeding or bottle feeding, during the upheaval of parental separation is typically not beneficial for the physical health or emotional well-being of the child. However, a father can feed an infant with the mother's expressed milk.
1.21 A Parent's New Relationship. Parents will be sensitive to the danger of exposing the children too quickly to new relationships while they are still adjusting to the trauma of their parents' separation and divorce.
1.22 Religious Holidays and Native American Ceremonies. Parents will respect their children's needs to be raised in their faith and with their cultural heritage. Parents will cooperate with each other to achieve these goals. These goals shall not be used to deprive either parent of parenting time.
2. PARENTING TIME WHEN CHILDREN ARE UNDER AGE FIVE.
2.1 Children Under Age Five Generally. Infants (children under eighteen months of age), toddlers (eighteen months to three years) and older preschool age children (three to five) have a great need for continuous, frequent and meaningful contact with both parents who provide a sense of security, nurturing, and predictability for the child. The following guidelines for children under age five are designed to take into account children's developmental milestones and to provide equal time of the child with both their parents.
2.2 Infants - Birth to Eighteen Months. Three, four-six hour periods per week, which include two - three overnights per week.
2.3 Toddlers - Eighteen to Thirty-six Months. Child spends equal time, in alternate homes, with three or four overnights spaced regularly throughout the week.
2.4 Children in Day Care. In families where a child has been in day care before the parental separation, the child may be able to tolerate flexible parenting times earlier because the child is more accustomed to separations from both parents. Either parent of a child under age five will not place the child with a baby-sitter or day care provider without providing the opportunity for parenting the child to the other parent.
2.5 Holidays. Parents shall alternate each year Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve/Day, so that the children spend equal time with each parent during this holiday period. Other major and minor holidays and `No School' days will also be divided between the parents as indicated below.
3. PARENTING TIME WHEN CHILDREN ARE OVER AGE THREE AND THE PARENTS RESIDE NO MORE THAN 100 MILES APART
3.1 Weekends. Alternate weekends from Friday after school. To Monday morning or an equivalent period of time if either parent is not available on weekends and the child does not miss school. If Friday is a school holiday, the period begins when school is out on Thursday; if Monday is a school holiday, the period ends when school begins on Tuesday. In addition, if time and distance allow, two overnights per week. All transportation for parenting time is a shared responsibility of both parents.
3.2 Mother's Day - Father's Day. The alternate weekends will be shifted, exchanged, or arranged, so that the children are with their mother each Mother's Day weekend and with their father each Father's Day weekend. Conflicts between these special weekends and regular parenting time shall be resolved under Paragraph 1.9.
3.3 Summer. One-half of the school summer vacation. If a child goes to summer school and it is impossible for either parent to schedule this parenting time other than during summer school, that parent may elect to take the time when the child is in summer school and transport the child to the summer school session at the child's school or an equivalent summer school session in either parent's community.
3.4 Winter (Christmas) Vacation. One-half the school winter vacation, a period that begins the evening the child is released from school and continues to the evening of the day before the child will return to school. If the parents cannot agree on the division of this period, one parent shall have the first half in even-number years. Holidays, such as Christmas, are extremely important as times of shared enjoyment, family tradition, and meaning. Families will work out ways for the children to spend part of each important holiday at both homes. Parents will alternate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve shall begin at Noon and end Christmas Day at 10:00 a.m. Christmas Day shall begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at Noon, December 26. Parents will alternate New Year's Eve and New Year's Day on a similar time schedule.
3.5 Other Holidays. Parents shall alternate the following holiday weekends: Easter, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving will begin on Wednesday evening and end on Monday morning; Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends will begin on Friday and end on Tuesday morning; Easter weekend will begin on Thursday evening and end on Tuesday morning; the 4th of July, when it does not fall on a weekend, shall include the weekend closest to the 4th.
3.6 Children's Birthdays. Like holidays, a child's birthday shall be alternated annually between the parents. If the birthday falls on a weekend, it shall extend to the full weekend, and any resulting conflict with regular parenting time shall be resolved under Paragraph 1.9. If the birthday falls on a weekday, it shall be celebrated during the day and the child shall spend an overnight with the parent.
3.7 Parents' Birthdays. The children will spend the day (including overnight) with the parent who is celebrating his or her birthday, unless it interferes with either parent's scheduled time during a holiday or vacation.
3.8 Conflicts between Regular and Holiday Weekends. When there is a conflict between a holiday weekend and the regular weekend parenting time, the holiday takes precedence. Thus, if either parent misses a regular weekend because it is the other parent's holiday, the regular alternating parenting schedule will resume following the holiday. The parents shall make up missed weekends resulting from holiday conflicts.
3.9 Notice of Canceled Parenting Time. Whenever possible, either parent shall give a minimum of three-days notice of intent not to exercise all or part of the scheduled parenting time. When such notice is not feasible, the maximum notice permitted by the circumstances, and the reason therefore, shall be provided to the other parent. If one parent cancels or modifies the other parent's time with a child because the child has a scheduling conflict, that parent will be given the opportunity to take the child to the scheduled event or appointment.
3.10 Pick Up and Return of Children. Both parents shall share the responsibility of picking up and returning the children. Usually one parent will pick up and the other parent will return the children to that parent's residence. The person picking up or returning the children during parenting times has an obligation to be punctual, arriving at the agreed time, not substantially earlier or later and will call the other parent if they are to be late more that 1/2 hour. Repeated, unjustified violations of this provision may subject the offending parent to court sanctions.
3.11 Additional Parenting Time. The children's time with both parents will be liberal and flexible. For most parents, these guidelines are not meant to foreclose the parents from agreeing to such time-sharing with the children as the parents find reasonable and in the best interests of their children at any given time.
4. PARENTING TIME WHEN CHILDREN ARE OVER AGE THREE AND THE PARENTS RESIDE MORE THAN 100 MILES APART
4.1 Extended Parenting Time. All but two weeks of the school summer vacation period and, on an alternating basis, the school winter (Christmas & New Years) vacation and spring break.
4.2 Priority of Summer Parenting Time. Summer parenting time with either parent takes precedence over summer activities (such as sports), when the parenting time cannot be reasonably scheduled around such events. Even so, the conscientious parent will often be able to enroll the child in the same or similar activity in the parent's community.
4.3 Notice. At least 60 days advance written notice will be given of the date for commencing summer parenting time, so that the most efficient means of transportation may be obtained and the parents and the children may arrange their schedules. Failure to give the precise number of days notice does not give either parent the right to deny parenting time.
4.4 Additional Parenting Time. Where distance and finances permit, additional parenting time, in order to maximize the time between both parents will be provided, as practical and liberal parenting time shall be accommodated. This may include more frequent parenting time weekends during the school year. If necessary, children can miss some school to spend time with either parent, so long as it does not substantially impair the children's scholastic progress.
An adequate parenting plan can address the following areas:
Medical, dental, vision care, psychiatric, other mental health care
Decision making responsibility
Parenting time arrangement
Maintaining Contact when the children are with the other parent
Holidays and vacations
Special occasions and family events
Outside activities, Grandparents, relatives and important friends
Transporting the children
Improving transition times
Treating each child as an individual
Parenting Styles and Values, Consistency in Raising children
Undermining the parent/child relationship
Denying Access to the Child
When a parent needs to develop parenting skills
When nonrelatives live in the home
When parents have new partners
Labeling the Residential Arrangement
Separating Adult relationship issues from parenting issues
Making Changes to the Parenting Plan
Explaining the agreement to the children
Death of a parent or child