If you are awarded custody of your children, it may be tempting to feel triumphant. After all, there are no contests of more personal interest to you, and you can be pleased, or even relieved in the knowledge that the judge saw fit to give you the lion’s share of control over your child’s life.
Don’t assume that the judge thinks you are wonderful, and that she shares your low opinion of your ex’s parenting skills. In most custody disputes, the judge has a very difficult time making the decision. He or she is confronted with two good people who are equally capable of rearing children. In most cases, it is a coin toss as to whom is best equipped to provide a home to the child. In making the decision, the judge is likely to favor the parent who understands that both he and his ex are responsible for their kids.
The judge will try to figure out which parent has the better attitude. This can be an especially hard call. Everyone is on their best behavior when they are in court. When asked how much visitation the other parent should have, a common answer is “any time she wants them.” An experienced judge hearing this will mentally add, “and I give my permission”, to this seemingly generous statement. After all, the judge sees a parade of divorcing couples each week who have proven that generous intentions have a way of vanishing when reality comes to call.
The court will take your response more seriously if it is well thought out. Specific times that can be set aside for the other parent to spend time with the child are more useful in proving that you are most likely to honor your child’s other parent’s rights. School events, religious ceremonies and other such occasions are examples you can suggest to the judge to accommodate your ex’s parenting rights. Encouraging him to take the kids with him for family get togethers, weddings and funerals can show the court that you recognize his importance in their lives.
Courts view visitation orders as the least contact a non-custodial parent should have with his or her children. These orders are safety mechanisms that are put in place to make sure the custodial parent cooperates in letting the other parent help raise the kids. However, most courts would agree that increasing the non-custodian’s time voluntarily reflects well on the parent in control. A judge will be much more impressed with a person who recognizes the other parent’s contributions to a child’s life, and works to give the child access to as much of their other parent’s love as reasonably possible.
Always remember that your kids will live with the other parent if something happens to you. Of course, losing you would be traumatic. However, the best gift you can give your kids is a strong, loving and positive relationship with the person whose care they will have if you can’t be there to see to their needs yourself.