In making a determination of a modification of custody a court must consider the quality of the interaction between the parent and the child or children. This means that primary among the circumstances to be considered in determining the best interests of the child are the parents’ ability to provide for the child’s emotional and intellectual development, the quality of a child’s home environment and the parental guidance provided.
In evaluating the parties’ respective home environments, a court should consider the activities with which a parent provides a child when they are in their care or in their home. A court also should consider the activities that a parent engages in with the child.
Where a parent provides children with a “well-rounded and stable home environment during his visitation periods, which included stimulating activities outside of the home” this is better than a parent who does not engage a child. This means that a parent must make an effort. This effort is not just with the child. It also means that a parent must be involved in their child’s education, extra-curricular activities as well as the activities in which they engage as a family.
This is an opportunity for non-custodial parents to stand on a better footing in a custody modification matter. Courts will look at what parents do with the time they have and the time they make for their child. Non-custodial parents who are actively involved with their child during their periods of visitation, such as taking them to the playground, the library, the YMCA and engaging in other activities, demonstrate strong parenting ability as compared to those parents who do not engage with their child or simply watch television with them.
This is not to say that taking it easy on a weekend with the kids is a bad thing. But the point is that parents who are engaged in their child’s life including their education and extra-curricular activities are more likely to be awarded residential custody than those who do not.