Many times I have clients come into my office with concerns over the lack of actual time their ex spends with the children during their scheduled time. Take, for example, a case where a Father has the children every other weekend and has a job that requires him to work from 9-5 most Saturdays. The children are often at home with a babysitter during the day when the Father is working. The Mother would like the children to be with her on these Saturdays. This situation brings up an interesting dynamic. Is spending some Saturdays with a babysitter instead of spending the time with their Mother in the children’s best interests? Would taking the time away from the Father and giving to the Mother be penalizing the Father for his chosen career as he tries to provide for his children and family?
Like many questions in family law, the answer is not simple. Courts value children’s time with the non-custodial parent as a result of the fact that the he or she is not with the children the majority of the time. Consequently, the Mother’s burden is high in this example to convince a judge that the children should be with her rather than at the Father’s house while he is at work.
What if the Father has the ability to come home for an hour at lunch time to spend with the children? That is a prime example of how a parent’s visitation time with his or her children is HIS or HER time. Leaving the children with a babysitter may not be an ideal scenario but the Father has a right to have the children at his house while he is at work. Something as simple as knowing that the children are at his house awaiting his return is tremendously comforting.
Of course, the best course of action in this scenario is for the parents to have an honest, productive discussion about the children’s best interests and if they decide that the children should be with the Mother on Saturdays then the Father should be given one of the Mother’s custodial days. Things don’t always work out so easily, however, and it is important to stress that everything is about the children in cases like this. A parent being upset that the other parent is not spending 100% of his or her visitation time with the children is not what the case is about, is not what the Court is going to be concerned about, and should not be the driving factor for litigation.