by Brette Sember
Part of your responsibility as the custodial parent is to encourage and assist with visitation. Kids need two parents in their lives, and it takes two parents to make visitation plans work.
However, there are some non-custodial parents who either skip visitation or think it should revolve around their lives. Dealing with these situations can be challenging
If the other parent does not come for visitation on any regular basis, you may be at a loss as to what to do. Should have your child ready and waiting only to be disappointed time after time? Should you give up on visitation completely? Will you get in trouble if you no longer make your child available?
If you're in a situation where your child is regularly being disappointed by a no-show parent, it is in the best interest of your child if you stop getting ready for visitation at the scheduled times. The excitement and letdown can truly be too much for any child.
If you reach this point, let the other parent know that you're no longer going to be ready and waiting. If he or she wants to exercise visitation, you have to be given notice at least a day or several hours in advance. This puts you back in control of your child's life. Should your ex make a fuss and insist on taking you back to court, simply present a calendar showing all the visitation times that were missed and explain your current approach. Most courts will find it reasonable.
Some non-custodial parents regularly exercise their visitation, but fail to adhere to the schedule. This may result in the parent regularly being late or frequently rescheduling. It's good to be flexible about visitation -- but only to a point. You and your child should not be held hostage by the visitation plan and the other parent's disregard for it.
If you are in a situation where the other parent is regularly late or is regularly rescheduling, it's time for some changes. Meet with the other parent and make it clear that you are no longer going to be so flexible. Make it clear that you have a set visitation schedule and that you both must honor it. Tell the other parent that you are going to allow a 15 minute leeway on pick up times. If he or she is not there within 15 minutes of the scheduled time, the visitation is forfeited. No makeups, no changes.
This is a precarious position to take. On the one hand, you want to encourage visitation and make sure your child has time to spend with the other parent. On the other hand, you cannot allow your child to become a pawn in your ex's games with your, or collateral damage in your ex's unstructured lifestyle. Should your ex take you back to court, again, simply present the court with a record of how late the other parent has been on a regular basis and explain the current policy.
If you make a stand and set clear rules for the other parent to follow, and you stand by them to the letter, you will make it very clear that you mean business. In most cases, the other parent will fall into line. Setting limits will help you and your child cope better with the situation and take the guesswork out of visitation.
Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of: