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What Is A Step-Up Parenting Plan?


Alice and Michael share a 3-year-old son, Jeff, but Michael has only met Jeff once since he was born. While Michael does not deny paternity, he has never been involved and also never paid child support. Alice obtained a court order to enforce child support payments, and now Michael’s income is garnished. Michael stated to Alice that if he is gonna pay for the kid he might as well see him. Alice is understandably concerned as Jeff is completely unfamiliar with his father who is a virtual stranger to him. She also is not comfortable with unsupervised visits at this point in time. Is there anything Alice can do to ease the transition without denying Michael visitation rights? 

What is Step-Up Parenting? 

Step-up parenting is a reunification plan between a parent and their young child. A step-up plan allows the toddler or preschooler to slowly become acquainted with the non-custodial parent over a gradual period of time, in the presence of the custodial parent. As the child becomes accustomed to the non-custodial parent, gradually steps can progress, such as longer interval visits, a day trip, and finally, when the child is comfortable, a weekend or 2-day overnight visit. Small children need consistency and feel safe and secure with their primary caregiver. Even if the court has revised custody and both parents have 50/50 shared physical custody now, it can be traumatic for a small child to suddenly be forced to change their routine and spend half the week with the other parent whom they may not have a strong relationship with yet. Utilizing the step-up parenting plan is one option to ease the transition for young children.

What is in the Child’s Best Interest? 

The child’s best interest is the standard the courts enforce and what both parents should be striving for at all times. Making child custody arrangements is not about what is convenient for the parents, it is about benefiting the shared child. When one parent has been absent or uninvolved it can be difficult for the other parent to want to communicate or cooperate on a shared parenting plan. If one parent believes the other parent is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or has a history of unsafe behavior, they need to request a hearing with a judge to make visitation supervised. It is not always granted but the court cannot help with what they are not aware of. Ultimately, you want to keep your children safe, and this sometimes comes at a detriment to either parent in order to maintain the best interest of the child. 

Contact an Attorney Today for Help 

It is not uncommon for one parent to slip in and out of a child’s life after the couple divorces or splits, but it is unfortunate. Children need stability, and it can be difficult, even traumatic, for young children to be forced to spend time alone with a veritable stranger without an adjustment period. If you can relate to the hypothetical and would be interested in creating a step-up reunification plan, contact West Palm Beach child custody & parenting plan lawyer William Wallshein. With 37 years of experience representing clients throughout South Florida, Mr. Wallshein is dedicated to finding an amicable resolution for his clients. Call today to schedule a consultation.

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