A three-hour window.  A three-hour window was all it took to feature the failings of co-parenting.   It was a minor parenting plan problem.  Our case study features an eight-year old girl and her parents two years post-divorce.

4th of July arrived with the provision providing for holiday parenting time to begin at noon.  The 4th fell on a Thursday.  Mom had parenting time Wednesday night and it was her alternating year for the 4th of July holiday.  However, Dad’s parenting time commenced at 9 a.m. on Thursdays for his regular time.

Mom asked if it made sense for her to keep Kami for the three-hour window rather than do two exchanges in that time frame.  Dad was insistent he have his three hours.  So swap they did – the parents each spending a cumulative hour in the car making it happen.

The result was a crabby daughter, a frustrated mother, and an indignant father.  Plugged into a formula, the question is does a crabby daughter + frustrated mother + indignant father = best interests of the child?  No.

If the goal was the best interests of the child, what would that look like instead?

Perspective.  Rather than focusing on the black and white win, shift the perspective to the reality of the experience for the child.  What is being gained by insisting on three hours?  Was there another solution for tacking on the hours to a different day?  Take a big-picture perspective rather than be mulled down by the minutiae. 

Flexibility.  Is it best to hold firm to an 8:00 a.m. start time that was established when the child was 4 and regularly rising at 6:00 a.m. when the child is now 14 and wanted to rise no earlier than 10:00 a.m. on the weekends?  Be flexible as your child’s needs change throughout the years. As long as parents are in agreement with making these adjustments, no court intervention is necessary.  It is free to be flexible and adaptable to current needs.

Pick and Choose.  One of my mother’s most sound pieces of advice to me, her most stubborn daughter, over and over and over throughout the years is to pick and choose your battles.  Do you want to make 3 hours a battle or would it be best to reserve that for the decision around enrolling your child in band – that is a meaningful request from your child that needs to be looked at by both of her parents?  In other words, let three hours go in favor of reserving parenting discussions for the harder and actual parenting decisions that need to be made.

With a little common sense, a good dose of flexibility, and a fair amount of letting the small things go, parents and their children will find an easier co-parenting path.

Angela Dunne

CategoryDoing Divorce
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