Making Changes Easier

Be prepared

Prepare yourself and your children for the immediate changes when the separation occurs. Make a temporary visitation plan so you can reassure your children that they will still have both parents. Once a more permanent schedule has been set up, both parents must prepare the child, mentally and physically, for visits and have them both the children and the parents available at the agreed upon time. Time sharing arrangements may need to change as your children grow and each child's developmental needs change.

Be responsible

Develop a time-share plan which is appropriate to your children's age and developmental stage. Within the structure of your plan, recognize that special circumstances do and will arise which will require flexibility. It will be necessary for you to make adjustments that fit the child's needs. This may mean extra phone calls or visits if the child is especially anxious about being separated from the absent parent. Your children need to know where they stand with you; this requires your setting reasonable limits and sticking to them, gently and consistently. This will help the children feel more secure in their relationship with you.

Be aware

Your children still have two parents. While you may be divorced or even in the process of obtaining a divorce, as far as your children are concerned you are still married and must act in unity as to your children. Make a conscious decision to work as a team in parenting your children.

Communicate

Tell the other parent about important events in your children's lives (school events, recitals, ball games, problems at school, illnesses, emergencies, etc.). Your children have two homes and two parents and your children need both of you. It is recommended that the parents obtain a journal which is to be provided to the other parent at the time of the minors’ visitation exchange. In this journal you place information as to (school events, recitals, ball games, problems at school, illnesses, emergencies, etc.). This journal is NOT to be used as a conduit of petty grievances that you may have for what-ever-reason with you former spouse.

Accept the limits of your control

You must recognize that you cannot control the other parent or the relationship that your child has with the other parent. YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR. You must concentrate on controlling your own reactions and improving your relationship with your children.

Fairness for the Children

It is imperative that you accept the fact that in order to meet your child's needs, parents may not be treated fairly. You cannot each have half of your child in terms of time any more than you can have half of the child's body. Timesharing usually ends up being unbalanced with each parent feeling as if they lost something. One parent feels that she gets less overall or routine time with the child while the other feels she does not get enough "fun" or leisure time with the children. Parents need to accept this for the child to be healthy and happy; unequal timesharing is often an unavoidable reality of the break up.

In Regard to Visitation

DO NOT use visits as an excuse to continue arguments with the other parent. Doing this is highly detrimental to your child’s mental health, and may even be grounds for a change or modification of custody. Visits are for you and your children to continue developing a healthy parental-child relationship.

DO NOT visit your children if you have been drinking alcohol or using illegal substances. Using alcohol or illegal substances are inherently unsafe and detrimental to your children if you do it in their presence or are under their influence. Your children need to feel safe and be safe with their parents.

NOTIFY the other parent as soon as possible if you cannot keep your visitation. Failing to appear for a scheduled visitation is discouraging to a child at best. Do not disappoint your children - be adults and work out another agreeable time. If you are going to be late you must notify the other parent immediately when it becomes apparent that you are not going to be on time. If you are not going to make your visitation and it must be cancelled, you must also notify the other parent and you should reassure your child that you did not make the scheduled visitation due to circumstances beyond your control, that you still love them and will see them again soon. If you are the primary custodial parent you must also reassure your child that your former spouse did not make the scheduled visitation due to circumstances beyond either of your control, that their other parent still loves them and they will see them again soon. Never blame the other parent or disparage the other parent at any time in front of your children or allow others to do so. Disparaging another parent to or in front of your child is detrimental to their mental health and may be grounds for a change of custody.

DO NOT involve your children in your dating relationships. Children who get emotionally involved with your new partner may end up having to experience more separation and loss should this new personal relationship come to an end.

Contact San Jose Family Law Attorney Merrisa L. Coleman-Bishop.