March 2007 -
Visitation Belongs to Kids
All too often when I was representing children or parents
in divorce or family court, I heard parents refer to scheduled parenting time
as “my time”. For example, a parent once complained to me that taking a child
to dance class took away from his time with the child. Parents who thought of
visitation or scheduled time as belonging to them were the norm, and not the
The Purpose of Visitation
What these parents failed to understand is that a parenting plan or visitation
schedule is created for the benefit of the child. Spending time with both parents
is a right given to the child. If visitation belongs to anyone, it belongs to
Stop Dividing; Start Sharing
It’s very easy in a divorce or separation to get lost in the division of things.
I get this; you get that; I want this; you want that. It starts to seem as though
you are carving up every last piece of your life. When you work on creating
a parenting plan, you are also dividing up time. Often parents get locked in
a struggle over who will get more time with the child. Doing so loses sight
of the fact that a child needs both parents. If both parents are fit and able
to care for their child, a schedule should be created that concentrates on the
child’s needs, and shouldn’t come down to fighting over who “wins”.
A child does not need to be in the middle of a tug of war.
Instead, parents should work out and live by a plan that first considers what
that child’s needs are. Children need to be able to go to school, see both parents,
participate in activities and events that are important to them, spend time
with friends, and feel secure. How these needs play out into a schedule will
vary for each child. Some children very much need the stability of living in
one home during the school week – shuttling back and forth is not a sound choice
for some kids. Other kids need frequent contact with the non-custodial parent.
The key is to pay attention to what your child’s needs are and build a schedule
based on them.
Fit the Pieces Together
Parents have schedules, jobs, and interests of their own and they most certainly
need to be able to pursue those. Creating a parenting plan means fitting together
the puzzle pieces of the interests of the people involved. The first consideration
must be what the child needs. The second consideration should be the parents’
schedules and needs. With this priority in mind, you can create a plan that