How far are you willing to go to ensure that you have the lion’s share of time with your children? Do you absolutely know for a fact that it is in their interest? Do you give any thought or consideration to the other parent, their feelings and their intention for fighting against what you believe is the right answer?
Children are an emotive subject - and no wonder. Children are products of both parents and usually both want to remain an integral part of the children’s lives. But, while that may be reasonable, what determines integral? In many cases, no matter how well prepared and how keen one is to be able to share the care, the children can suffer from suitcase kid syndrome - constantly on the move from one home to the other. I believe that this can work well when both parents are able to help the other, when step parents are welcomed (or at very least acknowledged) and when the distance between the two homes is not great. There has to be a parenting plan and agreement for this to function well. In addition, everyone has to recognise that things might change over the years - new partners, different locations, schooling, financial ability - and these changes can cause an otherwise reasonable agreement to take on a new meaning. Be prepared for how you are going to handle any change.
It has become much more common for courts to be non gender specific when it comes to denoting 'parent with care' and this has caused many mothers to face, for the first time in history, the realisation that they may or may not be that person.
It is therefore of increasing importance to both parents to think long and hard about what it is they offer, what their routine is, what their job requires from them, what financial commitments will need to be made, what housing arrangements are likely to be, and what the consequences of a decision either way will mean to them.
When you are making decisions surrounding the children, it is key to remember yourself in the process. How many people have you seen become a martyr to their children - and some of them are married. How many times have you seen a parent with care not get any help from their ex – and conversely those with care who won't accept help unless it's on their terms. How many times have you seen divorced couples openly willing and able to support one another so that both can have a life as well as their children having a life?
Fathers can make excellent homemakers - perhaps sometimes because they have to put that little bit of extra effort in to it - after all, it isn't their traditional role and therefore it might require more conscious thought.
I have noticed working with my clients that there have been a few occasions where the mother has agreed to leave the children with the father - namely for two reasons - the first being that he was less able to cope on his own after the relationship broke down, and the second being that his job allowed for more flexibility and stability. For more information about living and loving when apart from your children I recommend the book 'A Mother Apart' by Sarah Hart. Although geared to mothers, I believe it's also useful for fathers.
There is no right or wrong answer to who looks after the children. The right answer, if that's how to term it, is that the children are loved by both parents at all times. Children can feel love at a distance - even to infinity and beyond! It is entirely up to the parents to ensure that no matter what the arrangements are that they take time each day to consciously stop and 'think love' for their child.
Access arrangements can vary so dramatically according to distance and time available. It has to be able to be flexible over the years in order to accommodate the needs of growing and developing children. Specifically, I mean, by the time kids have got into secondary school and have a raft of homework, after school actitivites, a ton of text books and their very own social life - it becomes less and less realistic for them to 'live' in two homes - the books or they often end up in the wrong place, running two teenage wardrobes is pricey, access to friends and social engagements can become challenges. It is at this stage that the parents must give of themselves, dig deep and have conversations with one another as well as the children to determine who wants and needs what and the consequences of each.
5 Top Tips to Divorce and Children:
- Treat everyone with respect - your ex, your kids and yourself
- Recognise that everyone deserves to be loved and have time together
- Remember that children are adaptable as long as it's in a loving environment
- Be creative, there is no right and wrong - it's what works for your family
- Be a role model for your kids - how do you want them to remember you?