Navigating Custody And Child Care Authorizations: Expert Tips From Attorney Marina Shepelsky

Custody and child care authorizations can be a complex and emotional process for parents going through a divorce or separation. It’s important for parents to understand their rights and the court’s expectations when it comes to co-parenting and caring for their children. 

In this article, attorney Marina Shepelsky, CEO and Founding Lawyer of Shepelsky Law Group, shares some useful tips to help parents navigate the process.

The Importance of Co-Parenting: Default Position of Family Courts in Joint Cases

First and foremost, most states have courts that encourage parents to co-parent their joint children together, regardless of the personal circumstances that led to the breakup or divorce. This means that the default position for the Family court is joint legal custody, with both parents having about equal time with the child.

For example, in states like California, the default is even joint residential custody, which means the judge will expect the parents to shuttle the kids back and forth to have equal time living with them. This approach is based on the assumption that children benefit from having equal time and relationships with both parents. Additionally, in states like New York, joint legal custody is the default unless there is a valid reason for one parent to have sole custody.

The goal of these default positions is to ensure that the child’s best interests are met while also promoting the continued involvement of both parents in the child’s life.

Understanding Child Custody: Best Interests of the Child and Parental Rights

It’s also crucial to understand that court decisions on child custody are based on the best interests of the child. This means that the court will take into consideration a variety of factors, such as: 

  • the relationship between the child and each parent; 
  • the stability and environment of each home;
  • the ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs.

In some cases, the court may find that it’s in the child’s best interest for one parent to have sole physical custody and for the other parent to have visitation rights. However, this is not a common outcome and is only considered in circumstances where joint custody is not practical or in the child’s best interest.

It’s important to note that mothers do not automatically become sole custodians. Just because you are the mother does not mean the father will not have custody and visitation rights. 

The father will always have the right to have ample visitation with the child, including having an equal amount of weekends, holidays, and school vacation time alone with the child, even if the children are very busy with activities. This is because the court recognizes the importance of the child having a relationship with both parents.

Creating a Strong Parenting Plan: Essential Components for Child Custody Agreements

The best scenario for a custody dispute is a very detailed and precise Parenting Plan. This plan should include terms for both legal and residential custody, as well as final decision-making power, which can be shared or given to one parent. 

The plan should also address what to do if the parents cannot agree on major decisions relating to the children. An independent psychologist may be agreed upon as a tiebreaker, for example. 

The plan should also include details about visitations by the noncustodial parent, including weekends, holidays, and school breaks.

Points to Discuss When Establishing a Parenting Plan for Child Custody

It is essential to be cautious when it comes to introducing new significant others to your children. Before leaving your children alone with your new partner, it is advisable to spend a considerable amount of time with the new partner in the presence of the children. Only after several years would it be appropriate to allow for a brief period of unsupervised time. A Family Court judge and law guardian will view this approach favorably.

It is also crucial to communicate with the other parent regarding arrangements for leaving the children with grandparents or other caretakers (such as a babysitter). 

If it is for work purposes, it will be deemed acceptable by the court. However, suppose the children are frequently left with babysitters even during off-work hours, and you hold primary custody. In that case, the other parent may challenge your right to primary custody.

Here are additional points to consider when discussing with your partner:

Communication of the child’s schedule and important events

It is crucial to establish clear communication regarding the child’s schedule, school events, extracurricular activities, and any other significant events in advance. This helps in ensuring both parents are informed and can plan accordingly.

Agreements on discipline methods

It is important to agree on the discipline methods that will be used for the children. This helps in avoiding confusion and inconsistencies that can arise from different approaches to discipline.

Financial support 

Financial support for the children is another crucial aspect to consider. This includes agreements on child support payments, expenses for school supplies, extracurricular activities, and any other expenses related to the child’s well-being.

Health and Safety

Discussing agreements on the child’s health and safety is also crucial. This includes agreements on health insurance coverage, emergency medical procedures, and other safety protocols.

Holiday schedules 

Holidays are an essential time for families, and it is crucial to have agreements on holiday schedules in advance. This helps avoid conflicts and ensures that both parents can spend time with the children during the holidays.


Navigating custody and childcare arrangements can be a challenging and emotional experience for parents. 

To ensure a smoother process, it is imperative to have a comprehensive Parenting Plan in place, be aware of the court’s expectations, and exercise caution when introducing new partners to the children or making arrangements for leaving them with grandparents or babysitters. By taking these considerations into account, parents can reduce stress and handle the process with greater ease.

Also read:How Child Support Affects Your Taxes

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Article by Marina Shepelsky

Marina Shepelsky is an award-winning immigration and family law attorney and the CEO and founder of Shepelsky Law Group. Marina has been licensed as an attorney in New Jersey since 2002 and in New York State since 2003. Licensed in the 2 highest level federal appeals courts – Eastern District and Southern Districts of New York. Admitted in all 58 Immigration Courts in the United States and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

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