You can’t afford not to visit with your kids. Your kids need you in their life. But I hear you saying you don’t have the money or you don’t have “enough time” for a meaningful visit. YOU DO!! It’s time to think about options- the options your kids like, the options your kids enjoy and the cherry on top is that they are spending time with you. Here are a few ideas:
- an ice cream at a McDonalds with a play area,
- let the kids pick a Red Box video and you make popcorn,
- the zoo,
- camp in the yard or on the roof of your building or just go star gazing,
- go to Chucky Cheese and let them ride on the rides that more than two kids can be on (Yes, I did this with my kids and they were OK with it…no pizza but we bought popcorn to share),
- go to a park with a playground or a basket ball court(or throw some baseballs)
- check for church activities,
- the museums in DC (FREE!!),
- a walk in a forest preserve or park where you can feed the ducks (stale bread works and is cheap) or have a picnic,
- check your park district and see if they have no cost or low cost activities,
- story hour at the library, or
- seek outdoor shopping areas that have music or movies for free.
Your local newspaper, the internet, and free “family” publications can give you ideas.
If you chose to live too far from your kids, then you need to review your choice of where you live or see if you can move closer to your child. If that’s not possible, go visit your child on your way home from work for a hour or two and then enjoy your weekends with your creative opportunities for fun.
It’s not just quality time but quantity time with your kids.
The court is required, by law, to determine custody based on the best interest of the child. These are the elements that the court looks at in determining the child’s best interest:
- fitness of the parents,
- character and reputation of each parent,
- desire of the natural parents and the expressed or implied agreement between the parties,
- potential of maintaining natural family relations,
- preference of the child (court does not need to do this)
- material opportunities affecting the future life of the child,
- health and sex of the child,
- residences of the parents and opportunity for visitation,
- length of separation from the natural parents, and
- prior voluntary abandonment or surrender of the child.
Review these elements in light of your position in requesting custody of your child. If you can speak with the other parent (and it’s really important that you can speak directly or through a mediator), create a parenting plan that is child centered and not based upon what is good for you (and bad for your EX). This isn’t a contest between the parents- the parents that your child loves.
Meet in a neutral public place to discuss the issues where the two of you agree with each other and identify areas where you don’t agree. We can work on the parts where you don’t agree and come out with a plan that works for both parents and the child. DO NOT meet at your house, his house, your mother’s house, etc. – a neutral place. DO NOT bring the child–get a baby sitter.
Crafting a workable agreement between the two of you makes life better for you and your child and will help to reduce the time and money you spend with your lawyer.
The best interests of the child is the standard that the courts use in determining custody. It is not which parent wants the child the most and it is not which parent the child wants to live with.
Custody takes two flavors- legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody means the parent can make short term and long terms decisions concerning the child. Joint legal custody can be shared by the parents IF the parents are capable of communicating with each other and are agreed to act in their child’s best interest.
Physical custody is where the child lives with one parent and the other parent visits with the child on a prescribed schedules. There can be joint physical custody where the child spends a defined period of time with each parent.
It is possible to have joint legal custody and not have joint physical custody.
Parents need to determine what is in the best interest of their child and enter into a parenting agreement. If you can’t or won’t do that, the court will determine what is best for you and your child. Having the court decide a custody matter should be the last resort for parents.