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Laura Doerflinger, MS, a licensed mental health counselor, has a good idea for co-parenting by email.  She suggests each parent pick a day to publish a Kids Mail email.  For example if you drop the children off Sunday night, publish Kid News Monday morning.  What to include?

  1. School:  Grades, homework, school incidents, forms that need to be filled out, conferences,  etc.
  2. Health:  Colds, doctor appointments, dentist, counseling, moods, etc.
  3. Financial:  Payments due or parenting plan division of costs for activities, medical expenses, etc.
  4. Schedule:  Changes to the current schedule, changes in your child’s plans, holiday times, etc.
  5. Vacations:  Clarification of times and plans – phone numbers, etc.
  6. Upcoming Events:  Social, school, extracurricular or sport activities.

Doerflinger suggests avoiding control issues by not giving instructions and relating only the facts.  Limit the news to co-parenting issues.  This is not a place to discuss your relationship.  Respond to the items that need responses and be sure to thank the other parent for the effort.

Let’s Call a Truce in the Father’s Rights Versus Mother’s Right Battle

Custody battles can get pretty ugly. People do and say things they normally wouldn’t because the stakes are the highest they can be, namely, the children. Father’s rights and mother’s rights are often pitted against each other.

But the highest correlation to a child’s stability and well-being after a divorce is the health of the parent’s relationship.

So let’s call a truce to hostilities until the New Year. Put aside your disputes and differences for the sake of the children and let them have a conflict free holiday season.

The best holiday gift you can give them is to let them know they are loved by their mothers and fathers.

Robin Rivers has posted an interview on OurBigEarth.com with Calvin Sandborn, lawyer and author of The Kind Father.

Sandborn says that we learn to talk to ourselves in our heads with the same voice that we learned from our father.  In trying to teach children to be successful and assert control or power over others, the traditional father addresses his son from a height and treats him harshly.  (“Show him you’re boss!” “Suck it up!” “Don’t be a wuss!”)

The son uses the same voice that his father did when talking to himself.  As a result, the son’s inner life becomes a harsh place.  He tortures himself with cruel self-talk, has contempt for himself and then transfers that contempt to those around him.

The answer, says Sandborn, is to begin to treat yourself compassionately.  Banish the Harsh Father in your self-talk.  Speak daily to yourself with kind and encouraging words.  If you can do this, then you can become your own Kind Father and have more compassionate relationships with your children and others around you.

by Jill H. Breslau

Typical timesharing schedules, like 50/50, or 5-2-2-5, or 4-3, or weekdays and weekends do not take into account the needs of children are different at various ages and stages of development.  Frequently, the approach to visitation is to consider the schedules and convenience of the parents first, figure out a logical access schedule, and then see if the children can adjust to it.

But a baby doesn’t need the same kind of access schedule that a 12 year old does.  Their basic needs and developmental tasks are different.  The baby’s “task” is to learn to bond, because all future emotional relationships depend on early bonding.  The baby needs continuity and frequency of contact, because for a baby, when someone goes away for weeks at a time, it is as if they died.

A 12 year old on the other hand, needs time with parents that takes into account his or her need to develop peer relationships and extracurricular activities.  And any children with issues like ADHD or special needs may have unique requirements that parents should consider when setting up schedules.

It is not easy to look at life through your child’s eyes. But a good parenting plan and child access schedule does just that.  You are a parent for the long haul; your children grow and change, and so should your schedule.  The way to begin to establish a schedule is by understanding the needs of each child.

“I have found that the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” – Harry S. Truman

Mishcon de Reya, a law firm in London, England, has completed a study in which 2000 parents and 2000 children involved in divorce were interviewed.  According to the London Times, the findings were:

  • one in three children permanently loses touch with a parent, usually the father, after the divorce.
  • one in five parents said that their primary objective during separation was to make the experience as unpleasant as possible for their former spouse.
  • one in five of the children said that they felt used by their parents.
  • One in three of the children said they felt isolated and lonely.
  • Half of parents said that they had been to court to fight over residential custody arrangements despite knowing it made matters worse for their children.

“The adversarial, blame-focused system is polarising parents and prevents them thinking forward about the long-term interests of their children,” says Sandra Davis, head of the family division at the law firm.  “As a result the courts are drowning, trying to sort out what are fundamentally behavioural and family issues, with lawyers being drawn into disputes over what time a child is picked up from school.”

Helen Kirwan-Taylor, writing for the Wall Street Journal Europe today, describes a new trend in divorces:  The civilised divorce.

She says she first noticed the trend when a friend showed her a professionally taken black and white Christmas card of a recently divorced couple from Stockholm. “There they were smiling away on the card with their immaculately dressed children, even though inside they posted separate addresses below their names.”

This couple, writes Kirwan-Taylor, have a personal Civilised Separation Agreement in which they agreed to protect the children, respect one another, split everything down the middle fairly and never quarrel openly.

Think this will catch on in America?

Halloween is the most important holiday of the year for many children according to Donna at SingleParentGossip.Com.

But children of divorced parents have many questions, like which parent will take me trick or treating?

The easiest answer is to look at the Parenting Agreement, but sometimes Halloween is overlooked as a holiday in the vacation schedule.  Then the children are with the parent who has them in the regular weekly schedule.  That means one parent may be left out when it is time to trick or treat.

You may be close enough so that the children can trick or treat with each parent.  Or you may be able to reach an agreement to alternate Halloweens.   Some parents can work together so that one stays at home and hands out the candy and the other goes with the children.  Then they alternate the next year.

Children want to know where they will be going to trick or treat.  The children may be comfortable and used to one neighborhood. They may traditionally trick or treat with their friends in that neighborhood.  So it may take them some time to get to know the kids in the other parent’s neighborhood.

Who picks the costumes?  If there is a dispute, let the parent who picked the costumes in the past continue to do so.

Take enough pictures of the children in costumes so that each parent can have some.  If possible, have a picture of the children with each parent.

Most of all remember that Halloween is the children’s holiday, not the parent’s.

Asserting Father’s Rights

Does your ex hinder your father’s rights by alienating  the children from you when they are with her?  Here’s an example of a provision that should be in your Parenting Plan to prevent that.

“Each parent (and any subsequent spouse) will refrain from exercising undue influence over the child with regard to the other parent, criticizing the other parent in the presence of the child, inducing the child to challenge the authority of the other parent, or encouraging the child to request a change of custody or to resist visitation. Neither parent will interrogate the child about the other parent.”

Mary Louise Davis married John Franklin Davis, Jr. in 1958.  Sixteen years and three children later, Mrs. Davis, together with her six-year-old daughter Leigh, left the marital home and moved into an apartment.  Mr. Davis filed for divorce in Maryland on the ground of his wife’s adultery, and asked for custody of the children.

Judge Latham, after a custody investigation and a hearing, awarded custody of Leigh to the mother.  The father appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which reversed the judge.  The Court said the father should have custody of Leigh because the mother had failed to show repentance for her adultery.

The mother appealed to the Court of Appeals.  The Court of Appeals held:

“Whereas the fact of adultery may be a relevant consideration in child custody awards, no presumption of unfitness on the part of the adulterous parent arises from it; rather it should be weighed, along with all other pertinent factors, only insofar as it affects the child’s welfare.”

The Court said the primary determination was the best interest of the child.  In determining this, Judge Latham had taken into account that Leigh had been living with her mother alone for the past two years and was adjusted to this arrangement; that she was doing well in school and was adequately provided for at home; that even though Mrs. Davis had engaged in adulterous conduct in the past, there was no  showing that it had ever deleteriously affected Leigh; and that Mrs. Davis had engaged in no sexual misconduct since February 1975.

So Leigh got to stay with her mother.

Davis v. Davis, 280 Md. 119; 372 A.2d 231 (1977)