The one thing divorce doesn’t change is your status as your child’s parent. Whether you have a traditional visitation schedule or a flexible co-parenting plan, or whether your plan is temporary or permanent, you can make the time spent with your children as happy and productive as possible. When questions regarding custody and visitation arise, an experienced family law attorney is the best source for competent counsel.
- Balance flexibility and promptness. Try to be on time when children are being picked up and when children are being returned. It shows you respect your former spouse and your kids, and lets them know visitation is a priority to you. That said, being flexible about traffic, play dates and sick kids makes the time you spend with your children more like real life and less like something that is different from the rest of their lives. It also eases stress around transitions for your children.
- Make visitation time parenting time. Resist the impulse to be a Disney Dad or a Merry Mom by cramming your time full of treats, outings and special events. Don’t over schedule your child. Your kids need time to just be with you and to talk with you where you can really listen. Kids like rules and having reasonable responsibilities during their time with you makes your space feel more like home.
- Make your home their home. Kids need a place in your place and friends where they go. Get to know your neighbors and help your children make friends. Set a schedule so your children know what to expect. Use checklists or separate sets to make sure they have what they need in both places they live.
- Make age appropriate schedules. Toddlers and teenagers have different needs. Do the research and make sure your visitation schedule or parenting plan is meeting the emotional needs of your child’s current developmental stage.
- Include extended family. Try and fit in visits to grandparents and other extended family so your child stays in touch.
- Respect your Ex. Let them know about changes in your scheduling, travel plans, or if new babysitters or romantic interests will be with your kids while they are with you. Communicate where you will be while you have the kids and how emergencies should be handled.
- Seek experienced counsel from a family law attorney if you need legal advice or representation on any custody or visitation issue.
- Don’t make love equal money. You should support your child’s time with their other parent and it should never be about whether or not support has been paid. Equating time with money makes your kids feel like they are worth exactly as much as the support you receive.
- Don’t let divorce emotions spill out during visitation transitions. Don’t fight in front of the kids. Don’t use guilt or make your kids feel bad about enjoying being with their other parent. Make every effort to be polite to each other when the kids are around or when they can hear you.
- Don’t make your kids arrange their own visitation. Setting schedules is an adult responsibility you need to do for your child.
- Don’t make kids be emotional mules. Don’t ask you kids to carry messages to your ex, don’t ask them to spy and don’t subject them to the third degree about every detail of time spent away with the other parent when they are with you.
- Don’t take your child’s side in their disagreements with the other parent. Let your children know they need to resolve problems with their other parent independently and don’t let them pull you into the middle of their dispute, unless you believe they are in danger or you have serious concerns.
- Don’t allow your child to manipulate visitation. Unless your child is under five, children must understand that visitation is not optional. Children under five are often resistant to visitation switches and need some extra understanding. At any age, if visitation resistance persists both parents need to support seeking professional help to address the issue.
- Don’t feel like you have to handle it all yourself. Experienced family law attorneys are available to support you in stressful times and have the expertise to help you reach the best possible resolution of your custody and visitation issues.