If you have kids, you're going to have to continue dealing with your ex after your divorce is final. With any amount of luck, your split was somewhat civil, so you can put hard feelings aside for the sake of the children. Even the best laid visitation schedules must be tweaked now and again to accommodate circumstances as they crop up, and this is easiest if you can work together.
The Kids Come First
Of everyone involved in the post-divorce visitation shuffle, your kids probably have it the hardest. You sleep in the same bed every night, and so does your ex. You have all your own possessions at your disposal when you wake in the morning. Your kids must move back and forth. They must leave one beloved parent in order to spend time with the other. Add their activities on top of this, and the situation can become very difficult for them. If you and your ex don't live in the same neighborhood, they must leave their plans and friends for whole chunks of time. As the grownup, it's your job to ease this predicament for them.
Lay the Groundwork
Being flexible about visitation and parenting time doesn't mean you shouldn't start with a framework of rules. Flexibility shouldn't be a free-for-all, but rather the ability of everyone involved to stray a little from the framework when it's in the kids' best interests. Some states actually provide for this in their standard visitation schedules. For example, if you're the custodial parent in Nebraska, you can't commit your kids to plans on days when they're supposed to be with your ex – even school or sporting activities – without his consent. In other words, the visitation isn't carved in granite if the kids have other activities, as long as both parents agree to the change. Unfortunately, this can put the non-custodial parent in a tenuous position, because now he's either got to be the bad guy and say no to the activity, or agree and miss time with his kids – unless he uses a little ingenuity.
Think Outside the Box
If your daughter has a field trip with her Brownie troop on your Saturday, why not sign up as a chaperone? If your son has a football game on your Friday night, attend. Just because your kids have other plans, this doesn't mean you can't enjoy those plans with them. If they don't want to leave their friends to spend visitation time with you, bring their friends along and let them have a sleepover at your place. If your teenager has concert tickets, relent – but don't give up the whole night. Pick him up and bring him home with you after the show. There's no reason he must return to your ex's house if it's your scheduled night. You'll miss out on a little time with him, but it will go a long way toward ensuring that he doesn't feel resentful when the calendar says it's a day when he's supposed to spend time with you.
Give It Time
It's possible that all your efforts at being flexible could hit a brick wall, particularly in the earliest days after your divorce. Your kids may flatly refuse to abandon their own plans and bounce back and forth between homes. If you're the non-custodial parent, you might have to give it a little time. Let their friends tag along whenever possible and attend their events, but if they want to go "home" to your ex's house afterward, you may have to acquiesce at first. Consult with a professional, such as a child therapist or the school counselor, to construct the best and most patient game plan and bring them over the hump. Most kids do adjust in time, according to Jocelyn Block and Melinda Smith for Helpguide.org. If you're the custodial parent, you may find yourself in the unenviable position of either having to force your kids to visit or deny visitation until things settle down, and the latter is illegal in most states. This is where open communication with your ex becomes very important. Work together to come up with the best solution for everyone involved.
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