Child custody questions arise immediately after a parent has a growing realization that separation and divorce is inevitable. What will the parenting plan look like as we go through a Rhode Island Divorce? Where will Amelia sleep each night? When will I see Ryan? What about Christmas Eve? These are the natural concerns that come to mind. Each parent feels a sense of sadness that she/he cannot see the children every day; however, this may be a reality.
As a Rhode Island divorce mediator having mediated hundreds of divorces and having represented many individuals as a divorce lawyer, Steve Hirsch has witnessed people with these concerns. For the benefit of the parents and kids, in the short and long run, creative co-parenting is important. Unless there has been domestic violence, follow these suggestions:
1. The children's welfare comes first, second and third. Their legitimate needs override your need to be right, vengeful, nosey or intrusive. A child's need to go to the mall for the umteenth time does not always override the other's parenting time. The same goes for enrolling the child in many activities so he/she cannot see the other parent, such as dance on Monday, soccer every Wednesday and Saturday, and karate every Tuesday and Sunday.
2. Communication must be open, honest, considerate, constructive and timely. Communication should be direct and polite; the children should not be used to send messages between parents, as kids may forget or not get the mesage right. Each parent has an "emotional bank". When you make deposits into the other parent's emotional bank, you wil be able to make withdrawals when needed. When communication is harsh and demeaning, you can never get a favor when needed. Texting about delays, emergencies or other circumstances is also helpful.
3. Respect the other party's independence. Do not walk into the other's residence without being invited. If allowed in, do not snoop, look at mail, pick up photos of significant others, etc. Respect the other's residence as you would want the other to respect your autonomy.
4. Be cooperative and flexible whenever possible. Parents who cover for the other, during business trips, busy work periods and other unscheduled life events get the same help when they have those same issues. Parties return to court after a divorce, trying to adjust a parenting plan and the underlying root of the problem is a simple lack of cooperation and respect.
5. Never speak badly about the other parent to the children or when they are around. Many situations arise when one parent is on the cell phone in the car speaking while the children are in the back seat. The children hear a one sided conversation with the driver complaining about the former spouse (he's cheap, she does not pay on time, his new girlfriend is a bimbo, etc.). Even if unintentional, the harm from hearing one parent complain about the other occurs.
6. Support the other spouse by maintaining a united front. Discuss issues without the children present and attempt to reach a united front. If there are serious issues that you just cannot resolve, try mediation. When you undercut the other parent in front of the children, expect the same from the other parent and expect the children to start playing one parent against the other. Breaching this starts the children on a path of manipulating both parents.
7. Attempt to have parity of information. Speak to schools, teachers and health care providers and advise them that both parents are to be contacted and sent relevant information. Both parents should be able to to speak to these providers and obtain information about their children.
Many people find it difficult to follow these suggestions. We want to be the most loved, the closest to the children, the children's favorite. Yet, when viewed from a child's perspective, the above suggestions do indeed work the best. Children of all ages need to know that both parents love them and will provide for them.
People who breach the above rules wind up with expensive divorces followed by expensive trips back to court and children who grow weary of their parent's behavior. Mediation is a good process to build communication between parties who have grown apart while developing a cooperative child custody plan. Contact Steven at 352-1000 to start.