Parenting A Broken Home

This requires a genuine selflessness.

By Ravelle Smith, JD of Cordell & Cordell, PC

When children are involved in domestic matters, it is often a source of contention as to how much time a parent is going to get with their kids. When there aren’t any extraneous circumstances concerning the non-custodial parent and the child, standard visitation schedules seem to be an appropriate starting point to provide contact.  Standard visitation is often looked at as overnights from Friday to Sunday, alternating holidays, and extended time during the summer months.  When the bond between the child and the non-custodial parent are strong, additional visitation should be considered and implemented.    But, various things happen when the situation between the parent and child are not ideal, or there are special circumstances that challenge the normal visitation schedule.


Decisions about access to children can depend on many circumstances.  Age is one of the most important factors that should be considered.  But when considering the types of schedules that should be implemented, both parties need to be reminded that positive involvement with both parents furthers children’s emotional, social and academic development. 

The Court prefers that parents reach agreements about schedules voluntarily in that they are more likely to remain cooperative as the children age.  Thus, when at all possible, the parents of the involved children should be the ones to decide on how they intend on raising the children, not the judicial system.  When the courts become involved, parents often lose control as to the role each party will play in the development of their children’s lives.  A workable system between parents is usually preferred to what is dictated and required by a judge that is a stranger to the children at issue.  

When you are considering the type of visitation that would be appropriate, one must recognize that there is no set-in-stone schedule that is right for every child. Children differ in how long they are comfortable being away from each parent.  Some children prefer spending more time with their custodial parent; others move back and forth between parents with relative ease.  Parents have to consider the needs of the child when scheduling and exercising their visitation. 

They may need to tolerate disruption of their own schedule and spend more or less time with their children than they might otherwise prefer to provide the children with a sense of security.  This requires a genuine selflessness. Parents also have to honestly recognize the relationship they share with their child.  If a parent hasn’t spent a lot of time with a child during a marriage, then it is not unreasonable for that parent to need to build up their relationship with the child before taking on a parenting schedule that awards them a great amount of time.  As the child adjusts, it may be beneficial to change to a more liberal visitation plan.  

In order for any visitation plan to succeed, both parents have to be willing to cooperate with each other.  In doing that, they have to encourage the child to communicate with the other parent as much as possible.  This can be done via telephone, email, letter, or any other form of communication that fits the situation.  This will allow the child to maintain a connection and a relationship with the parent when they are away from each other physically.  The process of building strong emotional ties to a caregiver is very important to the children in that it provides a sense of security, it provides for an emotional and social adjustment, and it aides in developing a close loving and trusting relationship between the parent and child.  

If a parent is exercising overnight visitation, it is assumed that parent has caregiving experience or is sufficiently equipped to handle that role.  Whether a parent starts out with that experience and is exercising overnights, it is important to realize that one day that person will have extended visitation periods with the child.  To that end, if a parent is not well equipped, the other parent should do all they can to facilitate getting the other ready for visitation.  Active communication, sharing of information, inclusion in extra-curricular and school activities, and the fostering of affection are only some of the things that parents can do to ensure the child becomes adjusted to visitation.  Additionally, ensuring that the child has everything they need; books, videos, special blankets and toys, etc. will go a long way in getting the child ready and excited for their visitation.  The more a child looks forward to visiting with the other parent, the best it is for that child’s relationship development
If possible, the parents should agree on the parenting skills utilized to discipline and raise the child.  This way, a consistency is established with regards to what the child expects when he is with either parent.  A similar set of rules doesn’t give the child the incentive to choose one parent over the other because one has an easier set of standards.  The child knows that he will be treated in a similar manner, and expects a certain result from both parents given their behavior.  Separate rules undeniably cause a rift in the relationship between the child and the parent, and often causes the child to choose one over the other.  Establishing the same boundaries provides that there is one less barrier to ensure that the child matures emotionally and socially within their separate household living arrangement.

Therefore, in order to give a child the best shot at transitioning from a two parent home to separate households, the parents have to do their parts in assuring this change is as easy as possible on the child.  The above practices are only a snippet of what a parent can do assist the child during this difficult time.  For additional suggestions and practices that can be utilized, check back for more.  If you need immediate help, be sure to seek assistance from an attorney, mental health professional, or even varying court services that could aide you in your search for information.


Ravelle Smith is an Associate Attorney and Litigation Manager in the Atlanta, Georgia office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C.

Read more about Mr. Smith.

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