Father’s Day is and should be for fathers.
In all of my settlement agreements regarding divorce and child custody, I always include specific clauses regarding holidays in regard to parenting time schedules.
Typically, these provisions will have moms and dads alternating the “calendar” holidays -- including Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, in some cases Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Additionally, there are always clauses that Mother’s Day is to be with Mom and Father’s Day with Dad. In some cases, the agreement will also provide for alternating religious holidays as well as the children’s breaks from school throughout the year.
The key is that Father’s Day is always set aside for Dad.
Let’s now discuss some key issues that dads should think about regarding parenting time and custody:
I have found that over my many years in family law practice that the trend has gone from moms having the majority of the parenting time awarded to them to the current arrangement where most cases end up in a shared custodial and parenting time arrangement that is often 50/50 between moms and dads or very close to it.
What should dads do in order to maximize their chances for shared parenting time, or, in some cases, primary custody? The following are some of the essential questions for dads to think about:
Who puts the children to bed most of the time?
Who feeds them breakfast?
Who gets them off to school?
Who gets them dinner?
Who is with them in the evening?
Who reads them bed-time stories?
Who puts them to bed in the evening?
Who goes to doctor and dental appointments?
Who goes to parent-teacher conferences and other school-related issues?
Who goes to baseball, hockey, and other extracurricular events?
Who helps the children with their homework?
Who goes to school plays, dance recitals, and other events?
Who do the children turn to when they have a problem?
Who do the children turn to when they have a cut or a bruise?
Who schedules various appointments for the children?
What is your child’s favorite food?
What is your child’s favorite television show?
What is your child’s favorite color?
What is your child’s favorite game or toy?
What would your spouse or the other parent say about you as a father?
What would you say about the other spouse as a parent?
Are you willing to work with and cooperate with your spouse or the other parent to foster the best interests of your child or children?
What is your best quality as a parent?
What shortcomings do you have?
Can you say anything good about the other parent? (This is a question that a judge asked in a recent custody trial that I had.)
Are you willing to keep your children out of the fray in the event that there is a battle over custody or parenting time?
Are you willing to not use your child as a go between?
Are you willing not to put your child into a position where he or she has to choose between you and the other parent? (Note that it is one of the worst things that you can do to a child. Most children do not want to choose and, in fact, want their parents to stay together.)
No matter what goes on between you and the other parent, it is most critical to keep your children out of any custody or parenting time battles. Last but not least, it is also critical that your children should be free to love each of you as you move forward with the next chapter of your lives.
These are some of my thoughts on Father’s Day and custody. Please share your thoughts with me as well.