Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Co-Parenting Responsibilities of the Visiting Parent
For the purposes of this article, visiting parent refers to the parent who sees the children for the minority of the time. Terms concerning custody can be confusing. A "visiting" parent might be a parent who has joint custody but sees the children less of the time. A visiting parent might also be a noncustodial parent who sees the child less of the time.
Certainly, many parents who see the children for the lesser portion of time want to see their children more, and do not because of either practical reasons (the children do not live close by, work schedule precludes it, and so on) or legal reasons (for instance, it is not part of the legal agreement or judicial order).
Keep Apprised of Important Information
The visiting parent may at times feel out of the loop with respect to things that are going on in her children's lives. The custodial parent should make an active effort to keep the visiting parent up-to-date with important information, but the visiting parent should make an active effort to get this information as well. For instance, you should not rely on the co-parent to send you every little piece of paper that comes home from school. Speak to the officials at your child's school and see whether they require any letters of consent or legal paperwork for you to be allowed to speak directly with your children's teachers. I think this is absolutely critical for noncustodial parents, because noncustodial parents often complain that they feel as though they are treated like second-class citizens. This need not be the case. As long as you do not make a nuisance of yourself, your children's teachers should be very happy to speak with you. If they are not, find out why. You may have to provide them with a letter of consent from the custodial parent, or a notarized document saying that you are permitted to have access to the children's teachers. The same goes for contact with your children's doctors.
Attend Extracurricular Activities
Sports events and other after-school activities often run on schedules that are generally provided at the beginning of the school year. Ask the co-parent to send you copies of the schedules that pertain to your children's after-school activities. Going to after-school activities and simply watching patiently in the background is a good way to see your children between visits. Be certain that you work this out with the custodial parent first, so that, at least from the co-parent's point of view, your attendance will not be a surprise.
Co-Parenting Tips to Keep in Mind
Here are some tips for keeping the co-parenting relationship on the right track.
- Communicate briefly what happens during visitation. This will help the co-parent understand the mood your children come home in after visitation. Sometimes visitation might make children sad or moody simply because it reminds them that their parents are not together. Other times it is because the children will miss the visiting parent, so they become sad toward the end of the visit.
- Pick the children up on time, all of the time. When you are running late, call in advance and say how late you will be. Sometimes the other parent will have plans that require you to be there on time.
- Always call before you go to see the children. Even if your relationship with the co-parent is exceptionally good, do not drop in unexpectedly to see the children.
- Try not to bring the children back exhausted, riled up, or dirty. Always keep a clean set of clothes for the kids with you, even if it is sweatpants and a T-shirt or sweatshirt. Bringing the children back exhausted or hyper means the custodial parent is going to have a hard time with them. It is always a good idea to have some quiet time before the end of a visit so that children can decompress before going back home.
- Do not put your children in the very uncomfortable position of calling the custodial parent and asking to extend your time. This makes the custodial parent look like "the bad guy" if he cannot extend the courtesy. If extending the visit does not inconvenience the co-parent, call and ask yourself. Sometimes, especially with young children, the co-parent might want the children to return home even when they have nothing in particular to do. Do not be so quick to assume that this means the co-parent is being rigid or stingy with time. Young children (under six) get accustomed to certain routines at certain times, and extending visitation might interfere with those routines.
- Compliment the co-parent from time to time on how the children are behaving, how healthy they look, or how well they seem to be doing.
- If you have to cancel a visit at the last minute, first tell the co-parent, and then get on the phone with the child, explain, and apologize.
- Clean your children's weekend clothes before you send them back to the co-parent.
Washington Virtual Academies
Tuition-free online school for Washington students.
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Child Development Theories
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Graduation Inspiration: Top 10 Graduation Quotes
- The Homework Debate
- First Grade Sight Words List
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory