Divorce today is most likely very different then it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Many men today are very involved parents. They care for the daily needs of their children, help with homework, coach their sports teams, and care for them while their spouse is working. In certain cases that I have been involved with, it is becoming more common that men enjoy extensive parenting time with their children,, not the typical every other weekend schedule that men enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, many families who divorce choose to establish parenting schedules where the children enjoy certain days overnight each week with one parent or the other, and also alternate weekends. This enables both of the parents to continue an active role in the lives of their children. Obviously it is better, if both parents can be involved in the daily lives of their children, rather than one parent being resorted to a weekend or a Disneyworld parent role, where he/she only spends time with the children every other weekend.
It should be noted, that these shared parenting arrangements work best where both parties get along, the parties live in the same or in nearby towns, and where neither party has a career that requires excessive work hours or travel. Additionally the shared parenting arrangement should be implemented to maintain the status quo that the parties established during their marriage, not to establish an arrangement that is merely self serving for purposes of the divorce.
Practically speaking, there are obstacles to shared parenting. It is not the easy choice. It requires parents and children to be diligent. Items such as backpacks, books and clothes must be transported between mom’s house and dad’s house. As we are dealing with children and their belongings, numerous items may get misplaced and there may be many instances where a child discovers that he left something at mom’s house when he needs it at dad’s house. These are all the practicalities of dealing with this sort of parenting arrangement.
Also, a certain responsibility goes hand in hand with a shared parenting arrangement. If it is dad’s day and little Anthony wakes up with a stomach flu, dad is the one who has to call into work and take Anthony to the doctor. Both parents need jobs and employers with flexibility to work with this sort of parenting schedule.
Shared parenting is probably most difficult with teenagers or college age kids as they are the least malleable. They will probably be the most resistant to change and object to shuttling their belongings back and forth between their parents homes. For them life is easiest where there is a full refrigerator, their X box and someone who does their laundry. In establishing any parenting schedule for teenagers or college age kids, it is recommended to take their concerns into account and to adapt to what they want, rather than force the schedule that the parent wants on them.
Although shared parenting may not be the easy choice, it can be rewarding. Both parties are able to maintain that day to day contact with their children and remain a part of their daily lives. It should be something that is considered by the parties on a case by case basis.
Laura D’Orsi, Esq. is a divorce lawyer with offices located in Red Bank, New Jersey who works diligently to ensure that her clients are protected.