ASPIRATIONAL GUIDELINES FOR SUGGESTED USE IN
NORMAL PARENTING MATTERS
This Court recognized that it is not possible to create good family relationships on paper. And, while most parents are good parents and most relationships between divorced parents and their children are good, there are problem cases. This Court has adopted a number of aspirational guidelines, and those are set forth below here. It is expected that they would probably be appropriate in most ordinary cases, but that there will be exceptions because of unusual problems including but not limited to child abuse, incarceration of parents, instability of parents, criminal or other dangerous behavior by parents, etc. It is always possible for a parent to file a motion with this Court to ask for specific orders pertinent to parenting time, to deal with specific circumstances in individual cases. Having said the above, the Court provides the following aspirational guidelines, with the intention that parents consider them seriously. They are not part of the parenting time orders in given cases unless they are specifically adopted by the Court, but they are intended to be used by and between parents as guidelines to help them make decisions in normal cases.
- The parents should exert every reasonable effort to maintain contact between each parent and the children, and to foster a feeling of affection between the children and each parent. Neither parent should do anything which may estrange the children from the other party or injure the children’s opinion as to either party, or which may hamper the free and natural development of the children’s love and respect for the other party.
- The parents should promptly inform each other with respect to any illness or accident of any of the children, and in the event that such illness or accident is likely to cause that child to be confined to bed or home (whether of the mother or father) for more than twenty-four hours, such other parent should be entitled to visit the child at reasonable times and for reasonable periods.
- The parents should not encourage the children to use the terms “father” and “mother” and their equivalents to refer to persons other than the parties.
- Children generally have the following rights:
- The right to be treated as important human beings, with unique feelings, ideas, and desires, and not as a source of argument between parents;
- The right to a continuing relationship with both parents and the freedom to receive love from and express love for both;
- The right to express love and affection for each parent without having to stifle that love because of fear of disapproval by the other parent;
- The right to know that their parents’ decision to divorce is not their responsibility and that they will live with one parent and will visit the other parent;
- The right to continuing care and guidance from both parents;
- The right to honest answers to questions about the changing family relationships;
- The right to know and appreciate what is good in each parent without one parent degrading the other;
- The right to have a relaxed, secure relationship with both parents without being placed in a position to manipulate one parent against the other;
- The right to have the custodial parent not undermine visitation by suggesting tempting alternatives or by threatening to withhold visitation as a punishment for the children’s wrongdoing;
- The right to be able to experience regular and consistent visitation, and the right to know the reason for a canceled visit.
- Expectations for non-residential parents (The following is adapted from Divorce in New York State by Grier Raggle, Jr., et al.):
- If there is no prearranged schedule, always give fair notice of an intended visit;
- Don’t keep children out too late, and stick to agreed-upon hours;
- Don’t make arrangements to see the child if you don’t plan to honor them, because your child needs to be able to rely on you. If you must cancel a visit, give substantial advanced notice.
- Expectations for both parents:
- Don’t use the child as a spy or messenger between the parents, and don’t question the child about the other parent’s activities;
- Don’t speak disrespectfully of the other parent in the presence or the hearing of the children, or belittle the other parent to the children;
- Be willing to compromise on the timing of visits, especially as a child grows older, as children have a right to a life and interests of their own.
- Expectations for residential parents:
- Don’t threaten to stop visits if child support checks do not arrive. The Court ordinarily won’t impose that sanction, and your interferences with visitations could affect your custody status;
- Don’t make up excuses to block visits to the other parent, because your child has a right to see the other parent and needs both of you.
- Admonition to both parents: Remember, visitation is a dual right involving each parent’s right to share in the life of the child and the child’s right to know both parents and to enjoy their companionship.
- Generally, both parents should teach children to love, honor, respect, and obey the other parent.
- Generally, the parents should promptly and quickly provide each other with calendars of the children’s school and extra-curricular activities, none of which should be avoided by one parent simply because the other parent wishes to attend such activities. Ordinarily, the residential parent must cooperate so that the non-residential parent is given full opportunity to participate in parent-teacher conferences and the like, and must provide quick and prompt notice to the non-residential parent of the scheduling of such things. Generally, both parents should cooperate to try to schedule such things at times when both parents reasonably can attend them. Generally, the practice of residential parents scheduling extra-curricular activities for the purpose of interfering with parenting time between a child and the non-residential parent is inappropriate, and generally it is the responsibility of both parents to communicate with and cooperate with each other to minimize problems relating to scheduling extra-curricular activities and unreasonable interference with parenting time.
- Children should not be used as mediators or go-betweens, and parents generally are not to make suggestions to a child about time spent with the other parent or make suggestions to the child about planning the times, dates or events of the child’s activities so as to interfere with parenting time.
- Generally, when parents have difficulty communicating with each other, the best solution is to seek professional help, counseling and/or mediation, in an effort at resolving such problems before they result in damage to the child.
- Generally, sufficient clothing should be provided by the residential parent when the child spends time with the non-residential parent. It is not the responsibility of the non-residential parent to launder the clothing, and it is the responsibility of the non-residential parent to return clothing that has been provided by the residential parent. Generally, it is not the responsibility of the non-residential parent to buy clothing for the children. Generally, adequate clothing should be provided by the residential parent for use in the activities intended for the child during parenting time with the non-residential parent (for example, if a fishing trip is intended, suitable clothing for that activity should be provided, if a dress-up occasion is intended then suitable dress clothes should be provided, etc.). Generally, adequate changes of clothing should be provided by the residential parent.
- Generally, if a child indicates an opposition to spending time with a parent, it is the responsibility of both parents to encourage appropriate parenting time with both parents, to appropriately deal with this situation by attempting calmly to discuss it with the child, and to try to work toward alleviating these problems without confrontation or argument. Generally, if such problems cannot be resolved quickly and amicably, the parents ought to seek the immediate assistance of a counselor or other professional, and/or file a motion requesting that this court become involved, either to order counseling or make such other orders as might be appropriate. Generally, it is the duty of the residential parent to foster an environment which avoids such problems and to make certain that the children have an on-going relationship with the other parent through non-residential parenting time. Ordinarily, the residential parent is responsible to have the child attend parenting time with the other parent.
- Ordinarily, each parent should provide all letters, audiotapes, photographs, videotapes, CD’s, DVD’s, gifts, cards, and all written and recorded communication from the other parent to the child as soon as it is received, and even if the child is too young to read. All such communications generally should be promptly given to the child and read to the child.
- When the children are physically transferred from one parent to another, no detrimental language or behavior should ever be directed by one parent to the other. Both parents should generally refrain from criticizing the other parent or arguing with the other parent in the presence of the children.
- Ordinarily, all communication and correspondence between the children and either parent is strictly confidential and should not be opened or read by the other parent unless the child is too young to read, in which case the parent having possession of the child at the time it is received should read it to the child.
- Generally, the non-residential parent shall not alter the physical appearance of the child or children without the prior consent of the residential parent. This would apply to cutting and coloring a child’s hair, body piercing, ear piercing, tattooing or any other act that appreciably alters the physical appearance of a child. Also, the residential parent generally shall not allow for body or ear piercing, or any permanent tattooing or other act that appreciably alters the physical appearance of the child on a permanent or semi-permanent basis without the agreement of the non-residential parent.