What Rights Do You Have to Parenting Time of Your Children Under Five Years Old?

Shared Parenting Time Requirements After a DivorceIn South Dakota divorces, the parents may agree on a custody arrangement, such as a shared parenting agreement, and how to schedule parenting time or the judge assigned to the divorce proceeding can make that decision. Coming to an agreement on how to share custody of your children who are under five years old can be tricky, especially if they are newborns or babies. South Dakota has detailed parenting time guidelines that specifically deal with this issue. Knowing what to expect if you cannot agree may help you and your spouse create an agreement on how to co-parent your young children.

What Are South Dakota's Parenting Guidelines for Children Under Five?

In general, South Dakota's Parenting Guidelines recognize that newborns and infants have a great need for continuous contact with the primary caregiver and frequent contact with both parents. However, overnight visits with the non-custodial parent is not encouraged. As young children get older, they are better able to handle longer separations from the primary caregiver, and this may be allowed.

The specific parenting schedule set in any case will depend on the child's maturity level and individual circumstances. However, these guidelines could impact on the parenting time schedule that is set:

  • Newborns (birth to three months). Three, two-hour custodial periods per week and one weekend custodial period of six hours is generally allowed. The parenting time can be at the non-custodial parent's home or an agreed upon location. No overnights are allowed unless certain circumstances apply. Breastfeeding must also be accommodated.
  • Infants (three to six months). The parenting time arrangement can be the same as for newborns or an alternate plan if there is no breastfeeding and the non-custodial parent can provide this level of care. This second option would allow for three three-hour custodial periods and one overnight on the weekend for no longer than twelve hours.
  • Babies (six to twelve months). There are three alternative schedules for parenting time. The first allows for three custodial periods of up to eight hours that are set in a schedule. The second choice is the same as the first option but adds one overnight visit, not to exceed twelve hours. Finally, the child can spend time at both homes, spending significantly more time at one parent's home, but one to two nights spaced out over the week at the other parent's house.
  • Toddlers (twelve to thirty-six months). The parenting time guidelines basically follow those for babies except that the custodial periods are increased from six hours to eight hours.
  • Preschoolers (three to five years old). The guidelines provide for two parenting options. Under the first one, the child spends one overnight custodial period and one midweek custodial period that is not an overnight with the non-custodial parent. The other option is for parenting time two to three times a week, spaced out over the week at the noncustodial parent's home and the remainder of the week at the primary caregiver's home.

There are many other parenting guidelines dealing with issues, such as breastfeeding, children in day care, and vacation time. If you are considering filing for divorce or have other questions regarding the custody of your children, contact our office to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.

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