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Top Things to Avoid in Child Custody and Visitation Agreements
Divorce affects a couple's lives in significant ways; yet, for those with children, it does not change the fact that both parties are parents. Despite tension, parents need to show a united front in care of children during and after divorce. Parents should focus on making the smooth transition to separate households.
From conventional visitation schedules to more flexible and open-ended co-parenting plans, options for establishing child custody and visitation arrangements are many. There are also varying temporal considerations, ranging from temporary to permanent.
When specific questions about visitation arise, consult a family law attorney. Notwithstanding specific circumstances, there are general tips as to what to avoid to best position your family for transitions of divorce:
- Avoid being inflexible in pick-up and drop-off dates, times, and locations for visits. Remember, however, that sickness, activities, and traffic arise and necessitate flexibility.
- Avoid being late to pick up and drop off children. Children look forward to visits from a parent and are easily hurt by a late parent who signals that his or her other activities are more important than time spent together and that visits are not a high priority.
- Avoid being a "Disneyworld Dad" or "McDonald's Mom" who over-schedules time with children, crams visits with activities, and overwhelms with treats. Kids need time to play, talk, listen, and just be with parents. Kids need structure, routines, rules, and responsibility as much as visits to Playland or the mall.
- Avoid setting a rigid schedule that does not take into account flexibility and change needed as children mature. Avoid setting the same schedule for toddlers as teens, as children of different ages have different needs and routines and require age-appropriate schedules.
- Avoid excluding extended family from visits. Children need connections and stability.
- Avoid disrespecting and fighting with your spouse in front of children. Arguments will not promote a peaceful, healthy, and positive environment. Model the behavior you expect from your children. Refrain from letting divorce emotions spill out during drop offs and pick ups.
- Avoid equating money with love. Facilitate your children's time with your spouse regardless of support payments. Do not make children feel they are worth money paid (or not) for support.
- Avoid making children into emotional mules who carry messages. Do not ask them to spy or interrogate them about time spent with the other parent.
- Avoid allowing kids to set their own visitation. Custody and visitation are adult responsibilities for parents. Do not let children manipulate visitation. Be patient with them especially in the beginning and end of visits and when any changes in visitation arise, particularly for younger children.
- Avoid taking the child's side in disagreements with your spouse. Do not put yourself in the middle.