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Parenting Plans: Support A Child's Relationship With Each Parent

As a Rhode Island divorce mediator and lawyer, I see separating parties in two different processes.  The methods of parenting before and during the divorce and the preparation of a parenting plan for the future are the same in either process. Every mediator and divorce attorney tells clients that the child is entitled to have a significant relationship with both parents, unless there is an abuse issue.

Children usually have different relationships with each parent, since Mom and Dad have different strengths, interests and time constraints. Because of busy lives and cooperation, the past may have included that Dad was the sports and dental visit parent while Mom was the artistic and the clothes shopping parent.

It is critical for each parent to support the child's relationship with the other parent. During the separation and divorce, parents may tend to struggle to become the "main" parent or the "better" parent for various reasons. Some parties need to visualize themselves as the better parent to overcome the realization that he/she bears a part of the fault and failure of the marriage. The tricky part is to disregard those feelings and to allow your child to benefit from both parents. A parent should never discuss the basis for the divorce nor the arguments between the parties with a child.

When a child has difficulties in school or feels insecure, it is helpful to confer with the child and suggest that the child also speak with the other parent. If a child is upset about making the tennis team, it is important for Dad to enlist Mom's help in making the child feel better. Neither parent should aim to do all and be everything for the child. If Dad usually was involved in sports, continue that; if Mom was the outdoors parent, let her continue to hike and kayak with the child. If parents shared interests, such as reading to the child, each can take her to the library at separate times.

Your child has two parents; Mom and Dad need to share tasks in a parenting plan. Utilize the strengths of each party, and do not attempt to seize the other parent's pursuits and strengths.  Do not make the child feel guilty for being with the other parent.  Show your child that you encourage him to be open and spend time with the other parent. When you co-parent in this way, you are working in a complementary manner for the benefit of the child. If your matter comes before a Judge, positive behavior to encourage the child to have a relationship with both parents is very helpful.

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Law Office of Steven J. Hirsch, Esq

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