In divorces, mothers tend to end up with primary custody and fathers are left with visitation rights. This means that you are not around to help your children grow up and achieve major milestones. One weekend a month and one major holiday a year is not enough to build a firm bond with your children.
For fathers with sons, visitation rights means you aren’t around to help your son navigate tricky social issues, handle puberty, or follow your example in becoming a man. Fathers with daughters lose the chance to provide a positive male role model and help little girls grow up into confident, secure women.
Whether you are in the middle of the divorce process or hoping to re-evaluate custody arrangements, here are some suggestions to help make sure you get the time with your children that you – and they – both need.
Consult Professional Services
Don’t try to work out custody arrangements alone. Consult with a professional service specializing in family and custody solutions, like National Family Solutions. Family law attorneys and other advocates work specifically with fathers, divorce, visitation and other family issues to ensure that all parties come to a fair and equitable solution.
Know your Rights
Despite many family courts’ assumption that primary custody is best provided by the mother, fathers have rights too. You have the right to parent your children. You also have the right to work with family law specialists to reach a custody arrangement that is fair to both parents.
Know your Options
Just like there are many kinds of families, there are many kinds of custody arrangements. Divorced parents provide care to their children in any number of ways, from the traditional custody/visitation arrangement to more equitable shared custody plans.
Some divorced parents even alternate living in a shared house, thus providing children with a single home while taking turns being the active parent.
Embrace Shared Parenting
The shared parenting movement is growing in force. Divorced parents who practice shared parenting work to make both child care and childrearing as equitable as possible.
Effective shared parenting means remaining in contact with your ex-spouse and agreeing on both major and minor parenting philosophies and goals. It means both parents know the school schedule and the sports schedule and the holiday schedule, and talk every week about which parent is going to handle which responsibilities.
Shared parenting also means forgoing major opportunities, like a job transfer to another state, for the sake of your children. However, if you are committed to being a part of your child’s life, you will do what it takes to remain an active and present parent.
Plan for Change
Even the best parenting plans need room for change. After divorce, families often experience new jobs, new schools, new spouses, and new stepsiblings. Health or money issues also sometimes complicate custody arrangements.
Remain in good standing with your former spouse so that you have the ability to discuss potential custody and visitation changes as they become necessary. Continue to work with services like National Family Solutions to make sure all changes are legal and set in writing.
Most importantly, keep in mind that your children are the most important parts of this arrangement. Don’t put them in the center of a custody battle, and don’t ignore their needs.
Children often want to spend more time with either their mother or their father at different points in their lives, and may prefer living in one home over another. Take their needs and desires into consideration whenever possible.
Parenting is a lifelong process, so set the foundation when your children are young by remaining an active and involved parent in their lives. Even after divorce, don’t let your involvement with your children be limited to just visitation.
Know your options, work with an organization that specializes in fathers’ rights, and communicate with your former spouse to work out a shared parenting arrangement that benefits the entire family.
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