Divorced? Have a 100% Relationship With Your Kids
Divorced? Have a 100% Relationship With
By Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Post separation, even if you achieve 50/50 residential time-sharing, will you
have a 100% meaningful relationship with your child?
Some parents believe joint custody is about sharing the kids 50/50 and they
fight strenuously to achieve this. Trouble is, kids canít be cut in half. Wise
old King Solomon knew that back in 950 B.C.
As the story goes, two women came to Solomon, each claiming to be the mother of
a baby boy. They sought his direction on who should continue to parent the
child. They both argued their case strenuously. Finally, Solomon arrived at a
solution. He ordered that the child be cut in two. With his order in hand, one
of the two women stepped forward and relinquished her claim to the child. She
understood that to cut the child in two would result in his death. Upon hearing
her change of position, Solomon recognized her as the true mother and awarded
her the child.
Many separated parents fight believing that only a rigid 50/50 residential
sharing of the child is fair and will provide for their ongoing relationship. As
the parents fight over the issue of time, the concept of meaningfulness is lost.
From the childís perspective, what is meaningful is not equal distribution of
time. Rather, important to the child is the nature, quality and purpose of time
together with family members. You can win 50/50 residence, but never succeed in
a meaningful relationship with your child. You can win the battle, yet lose the
In the end, parents may well be advised to worry less about 50/50 time-sharing
and more about meaningfulness - the nature, quality and purpose of time together
with their kids. It is this meaningfulness that the child will use to determine
their lifelong relationship to each parent as time goes on.
Meaningfulness to the child is determined by how well each parent protects them
from parental conflict and how each parent participates in matters of concern to
the child (as opposed to the parent). From the childís perspective, meaningful
is who takes them to sports practice at 5:30 in the morning; who helps them with
their math; who corrects them when they are out of line; who acts with good
For separated parents, starting with the needs of the child, each parent can
assume responsibilities, sometimes based upon past patterns and at other times
based upon newly negotiated responsibilities. The issue is determining how to
support the child according to the childís developmental needs and activities.
This wonít always make for a week clearly defined by alternate weekends and mid
week visits. Rather it can be a week determined by soccer, swimming, ballet and
homework. This will take some flexibility.
In the eyes of the child, the parentís involvement will be meaningful as opposed
to conflict laden. Worrying less about 50/50 and more about the childís needs,
the parents may find that the actual time varies from week to week or month to
month, sometimes favoring one parent, then the other. The childís experience is
parents who are mutually available when necessary. The child doesnít have to
miss an event because they are with one parent or the other. Extra-curricular
activities are not used as weapons to exclude either parent but as a structure
to organize each parentís time with the child. Parent and child can concentrate
on enjoying each otherís company. This way both parents can experience a 100%
meaningful relationship with the child.
Joint custody is about parents sharing responsibilities and decision-making
authority. The actual relationship with the children will be more meaningful
based more upon the nature, quality and purpose of time together rather than
equal time spent. Work it out accordingly and the children will thrive.
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