Child Custody and Parenting Issues
General Parenting Issues Impacting Your Custody Outcome
So we’re going to switch gears now. We’ve kind of abandoned the idea of settlement versus litigation, and we’re going to move on from the court process. We’re going to talk about some peripheral parenting issues.
One thing that can pop up with parenting issues is something called a parenting coordinator. If you and the other parent have a history of not being able to agree on everything, or anything for that matter–you disagree on everything from the clothes the child should wear, to food the child should eat, or friends the child should get to play with. If you disagree on literally every aspect of your child’s life, then you’re going to be a good candidate to have a parenting coordinator appointed.
What a parenting coordinator is, is a person who’s going to act as a referee. It’s a court-appointed person who, rather than having to go before a Judge every time you guys have a disagreement, you are going to contact that parenting coordinator. Say you don’t agree on the child being able to attend a certain school field trip, you immediately contact the parenting coordinator. That person is going to act as that referee and make a final decision.
You may be one of those parents who just knows that you’re never going to be able agree and this may be something that you want to consider discussing. If not, that’s wonderful. A lot of parents can co-parent fine without the appointment of a parenting coordinator, but we wanted to explain that a little bit to you, just so you know that it exists.
Another parenting issue that sometimes will pop up with regard to custody and visitation rights, is the idea of supervised visitation. Sometimes it’s appropriate for a parent to not actually have unsupervised time with the child, even if it’s just for a few hours. That can be if there’s a history of violence, if there’s a history of drug and alcohol abuse, any factors that play in your case that would make a court or a Judge worrisome about that child spending alone time with that parent.
The workaround for that is to order some supervised visitation. Supervised visitation can take several forms. You can be the parent that supervises the other parent’s visitation–although typically that does not go over well, so that’s usually not the best option. You guys can agree, or the court can appoint a neutral third party, maybe a neighbor or maybe a family member that both parents trust can be the person who kind of supervises that visitation. Or in more extreme circumstances, you can have supervised visitation at a center.
We have a center here in Raleigh, it’s called “A Time Together.” A lot of times we’ll agree or the Judge will order that the supervised visitation has to take place there, where there’s a staff who observes, and watches, and makes sure that nothing out of the ordinary happens. They can screen the parent to some degree and make sure that there’s no alcohol in their breath, that they’re not acting erratically, and then, in those cases you may have supervised visitation for a few hours a month or whatever the order says, or whatever you’ve agreed to. But supervised visitations are another thing that you’ll want to consider in terms of child custody.
Not Parent of the Year?
Some parents have a fear that they know that they haven’t necessarily been the best parent in recent years, or in recent months even, and they’re concerned that that’s going to have a huge impact on their custody case.
I wanted to spend a little bit of time talking about that. A lot of times, just the separation of the parents alone is enough to be a wake-up call for a parent who maybe has not been the best parent in the past, and that’s okay. You as a parent always have the ability to change and to shift your priorities, and that’s always going to matter.
Even if it’s only a few months or a few weeks before the hearing, and you’ve had this epiphany, and you know you’re going to be a better parent and you really start to take on a visibly different role with your child, that’s going to be something that the Judge is going to listen to. And again, even if it’s after the order has been made, and you know that you did bad before, and you got this unfavorable order and you’ve taken steps to improve your parenting, you’ve taken steps to improve yourself, you can always file for modification.
A good example of this is a parent who has had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and was an absentee parent because of that. They’ve spent a lot of time going to rehab, attending AA meetings, and they’ve been sober for a certain period of time. That’s demonstrating to the court that they have changed, and that would warrant a modification in the previous order.
So, don’t worry if you’ve not necessarily been the most visibly great parent, or if you’ve had things in the past that will make you look bad in court, that’s okay. You always have the ability to change, and you can always go in and modify this order. And we’ll talk about modification at the end of this course. But you always have the ability to change yourself, and in turn the order change as well.