Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Co-Parenting Responsibilities of the Custodial Parent (page 2)
At various points in this article you will see the term custodial parent. This is a legal term. When it is used here it means the parent who has the children for the large majority of the time, whether it be for legal reasons or practical reasons. People can have joint custody or shared custody in which one parent manages the children's day-to-day lives for the vast majority of the time.
Make Sure Your Children Stay in Touch with Your Co-Parent
The most important co-parenting responsibility you have is to make sure that your children stay in touch with the noncustodial parent. This does not necessarily mean daily telephone calls, but it does mean to have the children keep in touch regularly, especially if the noncustodial parent lives out of town or far away.
Give Your Co-Parent Access to Important Information and Documents
Noncustodial parents, especially those who live out of town, do not always have access to school or medical records. I do not believe the custodial parent should act as a copy service and errand runner for the noncustodial parent. The custodial parent should, however, transmit names and telephone numbers of important school officials, doctors, and other professionals involved in the children's lives. Sending a copy of school report cards to the noncustodial parent is a nice gesture. Schools have different policies as to who they will send school records to, so if you know your school is stingy about sending more than one set of report cards out, make the copies and send them along.
One area of unnecessary conflict comes when school pictures arrive. School picture time might not be the type of information that normally gets transferred from parent to parent, but noncustodial parents usually become very upset when they are not offered pictures.
There are some other important responsibilities of the custodial parent, including the following.
- Do not schedule events and activities over the noncustodial parent's time.
- Have the children ready to leave the house when it is time for visitation. Many noncustodial parents value every second of time they spend with the children. If you are the custodial parent, you are probably used to having the kids around and under foot. The parent who sees the children less is often more of a clock-watcher, and doesn't want to sit in the car for a half-hour waiting to see the children after waiting so long between visits.
- Do not send the kids to the co-parent dirty or in tattered clothes. The co-parent might have planned to take them someplace immediately after picking them up and might not have time to get them cleaned up. I am not suggesting that parents usually send their kids to visitation dirty, but kids play in the backyard and get grungy. Make sure they are presentable when the noncustodial parent comes to pick them up.
- Do not start conversations about money or other "business matters" in front of the children during pick-up and dropoff, and do not send the children to the visiting parent with requests for money or other issues better left between the two of you.
- Whenever possible, offer to extend time with the children, especially when it seems that the children want more time. Honor reasonable requests when the co-parent wants to do something special with the children that falls outside of normal visitation time.
- Compliment the co-parent when the children come home happy and looking like they are having a good time. Tell the visiting parent that it is nice to see how much the children love him.
- Allow the co-parent to have access to information about school, sports, activities, and doctor's appointments. Even if you are the custodial parent, you are not the only parent.
- Be flexible, and arrange makeup visits whenever possible.
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