Dad: Who’s There?
Dad: Canoe Who?
Kid: Canoe help me with my homework??
Homework, soccer, girl scouts, and the holiday dinner menu at the ex’s house are examples of non-legal issues that are now fair game in custody litigation. I spend a substantial amount of billable time on these issues and, unfortunately for the clients, the more deeply involved the lawyers and courts become on what I call “lifestyle” questions, the higher the legal bills and the less satisfying the results.
The courts follow some fairly straight forward rules on lifestyle questions. For example:
HOMEWORK. It better get done. This means that if your ten-year-old has a 10 pm bedtime and your mid-week parenting time is from 6-9 pm, homework trumps other activities. The legal theory cited by the courts in support of this has a very long Latin name, but I’ll translate: This is what it means to be a parent. So, even though the parenting time is “your” time, the courts expect adult behavior from the adults and this means getting the math done. For custodial parents, this means sending the assignment with the child. For adults who cannot accomplish this, www.ourfamilywizard.com independently tracks the exchanges.
SOCCER-BALLET- BAND CAMP. Children have lives and the courts expect parents to facilitate these burgeoning lives. So, this means that if your child has an 8 am game Saturday morning, across town, and it’s raining cats & dogs, you get up early, feed him (more on that below), and drive him there. The courts are not sympathetic that you’re spending “your” parenting time driving hither and yon, because this is what it means to be a parent. And, unless the child is so severely over-scheduled that his grades are dropping or his health is compromised, legal arguments that your ex deliberately signs the child up for everything just to ruin “your” parenting time are not well received.
DINNER MENUS. Fights about fast food, obesity, and white vs wheat are the worst. Again, unless your child has a genuine medical issue, he is going to survive your ex’s food selections. If you child is obese, his parents (the adults) should collaborate with a nutritionist. The courts expect no less.
The bottom line for Fathers: Parenting time is the child’s time. Don’t spend too many lawyer hours fighting lifestyle choices. Some of the best talks a dad can have with his child take place in a car, going to the 3rd soccer game that weekend, after a Friday night of homework and Chicken McNuggets.
The bottom line for Mothers: Parenting time is the child’s time. It does not help for you to remind dad about the hundreds of trips you make to baseball vs the measly few he has to make, because he’s probably still stinging that you have more parenting time. Unless you’re willing to swap places altogether, schedule-wise, then provide him the schedule, equipment, homework whatever, and send your child off with a smile.