Every family separated by divorce has its own special challenges to face, especially when it comes to custody. One parent will be given weekend parenting time schedules if the other parent is awarded primary physical custody. Children live with their non-custody parent approximately six days out of every month. This ensures that they retain a consistent relationship with both parents without shuffling the kids around too much. Or perhaps, putting too much pressure on the other parent. This is a great way for kids to maintain regular school schedules and enjoy time with both parents. We also discuss option for weekday visits in our article “Tips for Child Custody with Mid-Week Visitation“.
However, every-other-weekend only remains balanced if the non-primary parent gets the vast majority of their 26 weekends and split holidays. Otherwise, the parent-child relationship can suffer as distance is created. Unfortunately, there are a lot of different ways that this delicate balance can be thrown off. Sometimes it is part of an ongoing custody dispute. The primary parent may hide the children or refuse to send them on scheduled weekends. Sometimes it’s a simple accident of scheduling the child’s weekend plans.
When Weekend Plans Collide
The every-other-weekend arrangement assumes that children normally spend their weekends at home. However, children usually have a combination of friends and extracurricular activities that may take up a weekend. Sleepovers, scout camping trips, summer camp, and church or school events can all cut into precious parenting time. While it’s good to be reasonable about your child’s activities outside the home, separation is a major risk.
This is an especially big concern for parents of teenagers. It’s no suprise older children prefer to spend more time with their friends on the weekends than with family. Though even social or very active younger children can become the focus of an unspoken custody problem. The question is what to do when your child’s weekend plans seem to consistently block out your few scheduled weekends to spend time with them.
Coincidence or Conspiracy?
You likely brushed it off, the first few times your weekends were scheduled over. Maybe you even take over picking them up and dropping them off to catch a few hours on either side of their weekend events and you’re happy to see them socializing and getting involved with new activities. However, if on your weekends it starts to seem like your child is always scheduled to go somewhere else, it’s time to take an assessment. If it’s a coincidence, you’ll need to take steps to regain your vital parental bonding time. If it’s a conspiracy, you may need to take legal action.
Fixing a Scheduling Coincidence
Extra curricular activities are often scheduling on alternating weekends, without apparent concern for divorced families. Scouts, choir, pottery class, whatever it is, your child may have accidentally gotten involved in a conflicting activity. You can talk about the possibility of sharing these weekends with your spouse. This way you and your child can share in the activity they enjoy so much. It’s also possible that your child may be visiting a friend who is only available when they are with one of their divorced parents, incidentally triggering a conflict with your every-other weekend. If this is the case, consider offering to host their social time in your home instead of the other child’s.
Remedying Conspiracy to Separate
Never jump to the assumption that a scheduling conflict is conspiracy, but keep an open mind if you and your spouse are still having trouble or if your child is showing emotional problems related to visitation. In some divorces, it is possible that your spouse is purposefully scheduling your child for whole-weekend activities on your weekends out of either vindictiveness or paranoia. You can simply engage in conversation with your spouse to determine this. If they refuse to reschedule either the activities or your visitation or if your child is evasive about the issue, consider mediation or legal counsel to change your visitation schedule or enact enforcement to gain your rightful parenting time.
Only with regular visitation will you be able to maintain or mend your parental relationship with your child. If your child’s weekend plans are consistently keeping you from seeing them on your every-other-weekend schedule, don’t let the relationship slip away. Seek a new schedule or legal action, whichever is most appropriate.