Updated: Jun 16, 2021
"I'm a pretty hands-on dad and make the most of my custody. I take care of my little one whenever I can, and she determines what I can do and where I can do it." - Sir. Paul McCartney
So your dissolution of marriage case has finally come to a close or your establishment of paternity has finalized. What now? Well, you like many other Americans, now have the pleasure of having to work around a Parenting Plan that dictates how and when you will be able to exercise timeshare with your minor child or children. This isn't as bad as it seems, but it can become highly burdensome if you fail to abide by its terms. With that being said, what is the art of maintaining a strong familial bond post-final judgment?
To start, whether you were represented by an attorney or entered into a Parenting Plan as a pro se litigant (unrepresented), the terms will govern all the same. This is now not the time to fight over terms or argue about the interpretation of a clause or paragraph with the other parent, that was something that should have been settled prior to the entry of the final judgment in your case. For now, you are bound by what you agreed to or what the Court ordered for you. As a side note, this is why at The Hosner Law Group we advocate so strongly for the parties to come to an agreement on their own regarding the terms of a Parenting Plan and timeshare because failure to do so puts both parents at risk for being ordered to follow terms that neither wants by the Court.
The first step in maintaining a strong familial bond will be to make sure you understand what times and days you are supposed to exchange your minor child with the other parent, aka timeshare. This includes knowing where the exchange will take place, how it will take place, who is responsible for the traveling, and all other terms that are attached to the timeshare. By following these simple instructions within your Parenting Plan you will be able to start off on the right foot and make sure there is no miscommunication about how the exchange of timeshare is supposed to occur. If you are able to accomplish this, you and the other parent will already be well on your way to maintaining a strong familial relationship not only as parents but more importantly, for the best interest of your minor child or children.
The second step in maintaining a strong familial bond will be to understand who has the decision-making ability between the parents. This is typically shared but it at times can also be sole decision-making for one parent to have. This is highly important to know as it will govern decisions such as medical care providers, education, religion, extracurriculars, etc. for your minor child or children. Additionally, there is something known as ultimate decision-making ability which can provide one parent with the final say on a decision that the parents are arguing over. For example, let's say you want your child to attend school A but the other parent wants them to attend school B. Your Parenting Plan calls for shared decision-making with you having ultimate decision-making authority. In this example, you would be able to break the tie and have your child go to school A, as long as it is in the best interest of your minor child which may be determined by the Court if the other parent contests that it isn't. Realizing the decision-making authority of the respective parents will go a long way in curtailing fights and disputes that can detrimentally affect the familial relationship between the parents and minor child or children.
The third step in maintaining a strong familial bond is simply to be civil, be kind, be empathetic, and most importantly treat each other with respect. Even if you loathe the other parent, put your own ego behind you, and realize it is not about you or the other parent, it never was, it is about the best interests of your minor child or children. Too often parents act like children while their actual children are caught in the crosshairs, used as simply pawns to influence decisions or force an issue. Here at The Hosner Law Group, if we notice this behavior from one of our own clients we will not hesitate to fire that client. We hold integrity and respect higher than anything else. including the all-mighty dollar. While some attorneys may encourage this behavior we will never stoop to that level and will maintain ourselves as the adults in the room. Don't be fooled by a lawyer condoning this behavior, there is only one winner in that scenario and it is the lawyer billing for the problems that behavior causes, both parents bicker while in heartbreaking fashion the minor child is helplessly trapped in the middle.
This list is not exhaustive and we are not relationship therapists, but if you want to avoid a Motion for Contempt and Enforcement from the other parent seeking to enforce a Parenting Plan this list is a great place to start. Remember, no matter what you think of the other parent or what you think is best for you, the Court considers one thing above all else, what is in the best interest of your child? If you and the other parent can keep that in focus you will stand a good chance at being able to maintain a strong familial bond without the need for further Court intervention.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty enforcing your Parenting Plan and timeshare agreement with another parent please do not hesitate to reach out to see if The Hosner Law Group can assist.