A divorce is very hard on children; that is just a fact. They love mom; they love dad; and the two of you should parent together if at all possible. Unfortunately for the children, trying to “keep them out of it” is possible in some ways and impossible in others. Child custody and visitation directly affects children as much as it does each parent.
Children have their own social circles, social calendars and their own personal favorite things to do. From a young age many children are involved in extracurricular activities, mostly at their parents’ encouragement. Both parents used to be involved in the Tee Ball games; soccer games; Little League games; track meets; swim competitions; and music lessons, just to name a few of the many activities our children participate in. However, after mom and dad separate, maybe one parent’s new lifestyle is not quite as accommodating to guaranteeing that he/she will be able to get the child(ren) to all necessary practices, games, competitions, recitals or other such events. If one parent will not make sure that the child(ren) attend their activities, is that grounds to cancel visitation with the parent who cannot take the children to such events?
If your child(ren) do not like a new boyfriend, girlfriend or step-parent, and tells you how miserable they are having to see this new person, is that grounds to not permit visitation with the other parent?
What if each parent runs a very different type of household? One parent strictly adheres to such rules as controlled cell phone use, or not allowing a young child to have a cell phone (even if it is a cell phone the other parent purchased); bed times the child(ren) do not agree with; or limiting the time they are allowed to be on a computer; play video games; or socialize with their friends. The other parent allows the child(ren) to make many of their own decisions to these and other similar matters? Does the parent whose rules the child(ren) prefer have a right to deny visitation with the other parent because the child(ren) do not like the rules of the other household?
The answer to all of the above is no. Each parent has an absolute obligation to encourage the child(ren) to not only exercise visitation with the other parent, but should do all they can to make it happen. Remember, your child(ren) didn’t like all the rules you made together as parents. However, you must maintain guidance over them and serve as an example to them. New experiences can create positive relationships that would not otherwise would have been forged except for encouraging your children to try something outside of their realm of “normalcy”. If extracurricular activities are routinely missed due to one parent not wishing to participate, modified child custody and visitation orders can be arrived at, with the intervention of the Court when necessary, to ensure that the child(ren) can continue their activities while still having frequent and ongoing contact with both parents.
However, once a child reaches the age of approximately 16, they oftentimes acquire their own social calendar; obtain a driver’s license; get a job; and may even acquire a girlfriend or boyfriend. Once they have a driver’s license, they now have the freedom to visit with each parent according to their own calendar. Accordingly, the Court usually includes the child’s wishes in making visitation orders with children 16 and older. For example, a child who is working may not be able to spend an entire weekend period with you.
While your children are young, it behooves both parents to ensure child visitation periods are exercised with the other parent. It is also important that you do not subject your child(ren) to hearing you speak negatively about the other parent. Remember, they love you both. By working together to make sure they see you both as often as possible, it is likely that in later years you both will enjoy a rewarding relationship with your children.
Call Bawden & Kochis. They can help you arrive at child custody and visitation orders that will serve the best interest of parents and children.