How is Parenting Time Determined if the Parents Were Not Married?

Parenting time is a crucial aspect of family law that affects both the parents and the children involved. In Montana, the process of determining parenting time can be especially complicated when the parents were never married.  

At BKBH, our experienced parenting time attorneys understand the intricacies of Montana’s family law system and are here to help you navigate this often confusing and emotional process. In this article, we will provide an overview of how parenting time is determined in Montana for unmarried parents, and we encourage you to call our offices to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can fight to protect your rights and parenting time. 

The Primary Parent and Parenting Time

In Montana, when parents are not married, one parent will typically be named the primary custodial parent, while the other will be granted parenting time, which used to be referred to as visitation time. The primary custodial parent is the one with whom the child primarily resides and is responsible for making the day-to-day decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Parenting time is the time that the other parent spends with the child, and it can range from occasional visits to extended periods of custody, depending on the circumstances. 

How Is Parenting Time Determined in Montana?

The primary consideration when determining parenting time in Montana is the best interests of the child. Courts may take several other factors into account, including but not limited to: 

  • The child’s age and developmental needs; 
  • The child’s relationship with each parent; 
  • Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs; 
  • The child’s preference, if the child is of an age and maturity to express a preference; 
  • Each parent’s willingness to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent; and 
  • Any history of abuse or neglect by either parent. 

It is essential to note that Montana courts do not favor one parent over the other based on gender, so both mothers and fathers have equal opportunities to be named the primary custodial parent or receive parenting time. The court’s primary goal is to ensure that the child’s best interests are met and that the child maintains a healthy and stable relationship with both parents. 

Parenting Plans and Negotiating Parenting Time

Montana courts encourage parents to work together to develop a parenting plan that outlines the details of their parenting time and custodial arrangements. This plan should include provisions for: 

  • A schedule of parenting time, including holidays, vacations, and special occasions; 
  • Decision-making authority for matters concerning the child’s health, education, and welfare; and 
  • A process for resolving disputes or modifying the parenting plan. 

If the parents can agree on a parenting plan, they can present it to the court for approval. However, if the parents cannot agree, the court will intervene and create a parenting plan based on the best interests of the child. 

Role of Mediation and Parenting Classes

If the parents are unable to reach an agreement on a parenting plan, the court may require them to attend mediation to resolve their differences. Mediation is a confidential, non-adversarial process that allows parents to work with a neutral third party to develop a mutually agreeable parenting plan. 

Additionally, Montana courts often require parents to attend parenting classes as part of the parenting plan process. These classes provide parents with valuable information about the impact of divorce or separation on children, effective co-parenting strategies, and the importance of putting the child’s best interests first. 

Can Parenting Time Be Modified in Montana?

As children grow and circumstances change, it may be necessary to modify an existing parenting plan. In Montana, a parent can request a modification of parenting time by demonstrating that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original plan was established and that the proposed modification is in the best interests of the child. Some common reasons for seeking a modification of parenting time include: 

  • Changes in the child’s needs, such as educational or medical requirements; 
  • Changes in the parent’s employment or living situation; 
  • The child’s preference, if they are of an age and maturity to express a preference; 
  • The primary custodial parent’s inability or unwillingness to meet the child’s needs; and 
  • Instances of abuse or neglect by either parent. 

When requesting a modification, it is crucial to provide the court with sufficient evidence supporting the need for the change and demonstrating how the proposed modification will benefit the child. 

What Can I Do If The Other Parent Fails To Comply With A Parenting Time Order?

If a parent fails to comply with the court-ordered parenting time schedule, the other parent has the right to seek enforcement of the order. Montana courts take violations of parenting time orders seriously, and a parent who consistently fails to comply with the order may face penalties, including fines, contempt of court, or even a modification of the existing parenting time arrangement. 

How BKBH Can Help

At BKBH, our experienced parenting time attorneys understand the complexities of Montana family law and the importance of ensuring that your child’s best interests are protected. We can guide you through the process of establishing, modifying, or enforcing a parenting plan and advocate for your rights as a parent. 

Whether you are seeking to be named the primary custodial parent, negotiating parenting time, or dealing with a modification or enforcement issue, our team of dedicated parenting time lawyers is here to help. We understand that each family’s situation is unique, and we will work with you to develop a tailored strategy that best meets your needs and protects your rights. 

Schedule A Consultation With An Experienced Montana Parenting Time Attorney Today.

Determining parenting time in Montana for unmarried parents can be a complex and emotionally charged process. At BKBH, we are committed to providing compassionate and effective representation to help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights as a parent. If you are facing a parenting time issue, we encourage you to call our offices to schedule a consultation. Let our experienced team fight for you and your child’s best interests, seeking to ensure a brighter future for your family.