It is now common for courts to award joint custody to parents who divorce. This supports the belief that it is in the children’s best interests to have both parents actively involved. Nevertheless, the mother may feel otherwise on this issue, and push for full custody, limited visitation for dad or using her home as the children’s primary residence.
Family experts point out that fathers fill a variety of crucial roles in their children’s lives. It can involve traditional activities like outdoor sports, but it also can include help with homework or a stable presence as the kids grow up. Moreover, employers are increasingly willing to support fathers by offering parenting leave or flexible work schedules to accommodate parental obligations. If a father has an inflexible or demanding work schedule, this may work against them unless there is a stable arrangement, such as a grandparent or hired help handling after school activities until dad gets home for dinner.
Tips for remaining actively involved
Each family’s needs are different, but these general tips can be a helpful starting point:
- Do not leave: It is often best to remain in the home until a judge’s order to vacate the premises. If the divorce is an amicable one and a new residence purchased or rented, make sure this residence is set up to accommodate children living there.
- Remain involved: Participate in all the usual activities to signal to the children that nothing has changed in your relationship with them. If the new post-divorce reality demands it, dad may now help with carpooling obligations, schedule doctor’s visits, attend school events, and organize family activities. The father’s current information should also be listed as an emergency contact at school or childcare. All email correspondence regarding the children should include both parents.
- Use a calendar: Coordinating two parents and the kids’ schedules will likely be complicated by separate residences and less facetime with the other parent. Do not count on the mother to keep you updated on any changes to the children’s schedule or any added appointments, but both parents need to update the calendar as things come up. This can avoid confusion over dates and times.
- Keep your eye on the prize: While change can be difficult, the goal is to have a meaningful relationship with your children, and a new mindset may be needed to accomplish it.
- Be realistic: Every parent wants to spend more time with their children, but fathers also need to look at work demands or other outside obligations to make sure they can meet the expectations of active parenting on a daily basis, or at whatever level they agreed to.
Work with a family law attorney
Family law attorneys regularly handle custody issues and parenting plans. These legal professionals can help parents draft a parenting plan and custody agreement that is in the best interests of the children while also accommodating their client’s needs.