We hear it all of the time in the Divorce Industry – decisions should be made in the ‘Best interests of the Children”. Seems rather obvious right?
You and the other parent may have different opinions of what decisions are in your children’s best interest. You don’t agree and that’s ok. You were always going to disagree on some aspects of parenting even if you had stayed together.
You can both be looking out for your children’s best interests but believe that can be obtained in different ways. That doesn’t make either of your right or wrong, it’s just life.
Separation is change and how you manage it will dictate how successfully your children will get through it.
Let’s face it, things are going to change for everyone during and after a separation. It’s very difficult to keep things the same and maybe that is not the best solution anymore. If you can’t keep things the same, what adjustments would benefit everyone? Maybe one parent didn’t do the bulk of the parenting in the relationship but has the means and opportunity to do so now. Maybe one parent has to modify their hours or work more hours because money is tighter stretched across 2 households. Whatever the changes may be just know that there will some.
It’s not all about looking to the roles of the past, it’s about looking at roles going forward. How can you co-parent across 2 homes and how can you best work together to support the children’s well-being and happiness? That was your goal before the separation wasn’t it?
You might need a little help to stay focused on that goal. Mediation is a great solution for helping parents who have communication challenges or disagreements. As a mediator and a divorced mom, I have seen a lot. I can help you to brainstorm ideas that you or you and your lawyer didn’t think of. Mediators are focused on practical and logical solutions that work for all of you.
You are both entitled as parents to spend equal quality time with your children and raise them to be wonderful grown-ups that will make you proud. Nobody is arguing that. I’m sorry to say that whether you like the other parent or not, it does not change the fact that they are the other parent.
The point of contention is often around the parent’s “RIGHT” to spend 50% of the time with their children or their right to make decisions jointly or their right to move and have freedom from the other parent. Shouldn’t the argument be around the children’s “RIGHT” to be parented by both parents in a way that benefits them? Should your rights as a parent force your children to get up 1.5 hours earlier to get to school on their time at your home? Should your desire to have them in a consistent home during the school week trump the other parent’s access to them when the schedule and routine can be maintained in both homes? Is it right to fight for 50% parenting time when you are not able to care for them and are taking them away from the other parent that can care for them? Is it right to enforce a schedule on your children and the other parent that is 5 years old when things have changed?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions and in all honesty there is no right or wrong answer. There are only answers that work for your family. My point is that neither parent should have the right to use their sense of legal entitlement to avoid a serious discussion focused on their children. Do you know how I can say that confidently? Because I hear statements like this all of the time “My lawyer says…”
- That a judge will never entertain your schedule
- That we have already set status quo
- That a judge would order you to pay my legal bills if you bring this to court
- If we can’t decide I can apply for sole custody
- Mediation won’t work because we can’t communicate
- You could get less access than you have now
- We will tie this up in court until it is no longer an issue
Does this sound child focused? No, it sounds like bullying.
I’m not talking about those cases where the children are being harmed and need somebody to fight for them. I’m talking about the high percentage of parents that fight over another sleepover night, the children eating McDonald’s, the pick-up/drop-offs, extra-curricular or any change to the parenting schedule.
My concern is when the legal rights of the parents and their desire to count hours in order to get 50% (a common disagreement) overshadows communication about what they feel is in their children’s best interests. It’s important that everyone have a voice and that the children’s voice, needs and desires are not lost in the process.
The 50% shared parenting issue is not aided by the potential offsetting child support calculation. One parent’s intentions are most often questioned by the parent set to receive or already receiving child support “You just want the children more so that you can pay me less money!” is another statement heard on a daily basis by us in the divorce industry…but that’s a blog for another day.
Abdicating your parenting responsibilities – to your child or a judge – should not be the go-to solution when times are tough, communication even tougher and you are not on the same page. What is in the best interests of your children is that you care and respect them enough to try to work something out with their other parent. I urge you to at least try mediation. After all, you always have the court process as a back-up and you might be surprised at what you can accomplish together.
I can tell you that the mediations that fail in my office and go to court are not those parents that are focused on the best interests of the children. They are focused on what they are entitled to. The parent’s that are focused on their children are able to communicate (albeit sometimes very loudly haha), compromise and sort things out. They can agree to disagree but understand that a compromise is often times a much better solution than a long drawn out legal battle.
Sacrifices will need to be made on both sides. This co-parenting thing is not easy. You will not agree with all of the parenting decisions that the other parent makes. Everything can’t be a battle though, it’s honestly not worth the stress.
Your children have 2 homes, they will have 2 sets of rules and they will get confused sometimes. They will be happy, sad, mad and everything in between in both homes. Whether they stay in the homes equally or on any other schedule you both agree to and your role is still the same, to support their relationship with the other parent – even if you don’t like them.
If you do this co-parenting well, the kids will know that they are wanted, loved and will thrive because they did not get stuck in the middle of YOUR separation.
Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA
Keeping your family in focus during conflict.