Parenting Time (formally Visitation)

We no longer have visitation. We have parenting time. If the mother and father can agree on visitation, the court will usually approve the plan. The best plans usually maximize the parent’s time with the children. You need to consider everyone’s schedule, school time, outside activities, sports, church, vacation, and the fact that as the children become teenagers they will have a life of their own and will usually prefer to be with their friends rather than either parent. Parenting time is divided up in all kinds of combinations. If the parties live far apart there are fewer but longer visitation periods. If the parties live far apart, you must deal with who will provide or pay for transportation. Psychologists, judges, and I encourage visitation except in the most extraordinary circumstances. Try to keep the other parent involved in school activities and other events.

Sometimes when parents fight about visitation, they are really upset about something else that they do not believe they can fight about. It may be because they feel angry at the other spouse for leaving or it may be that they feel they gave up too much in the divorce settlement. But for whatever reason, they are involved in an argument about the children. It can be the custodial parent wanting to restrict the other’s visitation. This is normally not a good idea, because when the custodial parent says to the other, “I don’t want you to visit at this time,” that immediately becomes the time that the other parent wants to visit with the child.

In some cases the problem is that the primary parent wants the nonprimary parent to visit and they will not do so because the primary parent is trying to force the other to visit with the children. The best thing to do if you do not want the nonprimary parent to visit is tell them you want them to visit. Bury the other with visitation, and remember in the back of your mind that they are a free babysitter. Also, you might remember that the nonprimary parent who visits regularly tends to be a parent who pays support regularly.

Even if your situation is that the noncustodial parent is a jerk, and you do not think it is the best thing in the world for the kids to be around the jerk, you still need to encourage visitation. The children need to know that the noncustodial parent is a jerk, and the best way for them to know it is to let them see it with their own eyes on a regular basis. Withholding visitation from the children or the noncustodial parent pits you against the child’s imagination. If the children do not see the jerk, they soon forget what a jerk he or she is and begin to blame you for the noncustodial parent’s having left. The child’s imagination is then on the other parent’s side. The children dream about a perfect parent; and since they do not see the absent parent they do not see any flaws in that parent. You might overcome many things, but you will have a hard time overcoming your child’s imagination.

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