Today I want to talk with you about an argument that comes up a lot in child custody cases especially when parties have been living together and sharing child custody for a significant period of time.
What I often hear is that one parent or the other was the primary caretaker of the kids and that the other parent really wasn't all that involved in their school, or extracurricular activities or maybe taking them to the doctor. So the argument that the parent who says they were the primary caretaker is that they should continue to be the primary caretaker because the children are used to them being around all the time.
The person who was not involved as much in the children's day to day life is now saying, that that is not really fair because circumstances have changed. I'm not in a position where I'm going to come home every night to see the kids even though I'm not the one giving them the nightly baths or doing the nightly homework.
So, I do want equal parenting time and more time and as a fit parent I'm entitled to that time. So this is a tension that I often see and people ask me what is more important? Is the past more important or is the future more important?
That is a question that is really going to depend on your judge but one of the best interest factors does contemplate what the present, past and future relationship of the children and each of the parents is or was like.
My thought is that even if one parent was more involved in the past, if you have another parent who has a strong desire to be more involved in the children's lives after this divorce or separation, then they should be given that chance. If they don't live up to what they say that they want to do then at that point, the parenting time can be modified.
I think that oftentimes people fall into these roles when they're together and one or both parties get complacent in certain ways. But as circumstances change, usually kids want and need to have both parents in their lives especially if both parents are fit.
When I'm making this argument and I am representing the parent who may have been less involved in the day to day activities, I really encourage that parent to take steps as the case is proceeding to show that they want to be more involved. If they haven't been going to games and practices for example then I tell them you need to start showing up for games and practices.
You need to exercise every bit of time that you have allotted to you. If the other parent is offering you time that is not normally your time, then take that time. If you live so far apart from the other parent that it's going to get in the way of you having more time with the kids. You can't take them to school because the commute is too long, then consider getting a residence that is closer to the other parent and the kids.
So if you're the other parent who has not been as involved and you want more time with your kids, you have to take the steps to show the judge that you are committed on your end to making that happen.
Oftentimes, one parent's behavior interferes with the other parent's relationship with the kids. Some people go so far as to call this behavior "parental alienation."
If you think you might be a victim of parental alienation, get access to this FREE audio interview with a child therapist BEFORE you raise the "A" word to the other parent or to your judge. Understand how therapeutic intervention might improve your relationship with your children if alienation has, in fact, happened.