By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
Parents granted joint custody are generally afforded one of two parenting plan options, depending upon the state they live in:
1. One is a loosely determined plan where both parents fulfill their parenting plan with loosely scheduled blocks of time that are occasionally subject to change.
2. The other choice consists of set days of parenting time with set hours, holidays, pick-up and drop-off locations, and all other considerations spelled out in a court order.
While some ex-spouses are able to pick up and drop off the kids at a set time, there are those parents who exist in the parallel universe of the habitual last-minute change.
And while the occasional flu bug or flat tire can temporarily disrupt any parenting-time arrangement, ongoing capricious change can be devastating to a child.
For instance, take Johnny who waited and waited for his mother to pick him up for a “special” birthday surprise. Well it was special, all right, because Mom never showed.
Johnny was left crying his eyes out and wondering if something “bad” happened to Mommy. Even though Johnny’s dad and step-mom rapidly put together a party and tried to make the best of the situation, the birthday boy was heartbroken.
The mother’s reason for not showing up was that she and her new boyfriend had gone on an impromptu, out-of-town, weekend trip, and the mother had “forgotten” to call her ex or their son to make other arrangements for the child’s birthday.
So what can an ex-husband do to create a more stable parenting plan when his ex-wife has no qualms about changing the particulars at the last minute?
Create a Log
Document, document, document. Begin logging each time your ex-wife changes her parenting time at the last minute.
Schedule a Meeting
Schedule a meeting with your ex-wife at a public place, such as a coffee shop, to discuss the problem of her last-minute changes. Ask her if there is some circumstance, such as a health problem, marital discord, or some other reason why she is not able to keep her end of the deal.
Try not to be accusatory. Instead, explain the negative effect it is having on the child. Your ex may clean up her act for a few months and then slip back into the same irresponsible behavior. If that happens, call another meeting and go through the same repertoire again.
Meet With a Family Law Attorney
If you find that your ex really has no desire to change, meet with a family law attorney to explore your options. A family law attorney may be able to draw up a revised parenting plan where your ex-wife must show up on time or forfeit her parenting time on that particular occasion.
If you eventually need to play hardball with your ex by going back to court for the sake of your child, then so be it. A judge can sanction your ex for her irresponsible behavior. She may even have to pay your divorce attorney fees.
Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.