In almost all divorces involving children, both parents will have the children part of the time. After many years in the same home, it takes some time before both the children and parents settle comfortably into new routines. This creates some challenges that need to be addressed. Schedules must be created and adhered to, At least most of the time. The father and mother may have different parenting styles. This raises the possibility of disputes over what happens in each household. Finally, when parents are angry at each other we often see one parent sharing inappropriate details with the children. I recently prepared a list of parenting protocols for several couples that were struggling with these issues. I think it may be useful to any divorcing couple. If you think I have omitted something important please let me know and I will amend the document.
Protocols for Parenting
- The agreed schedule should be followed unless both parents agree to change.
- When one parent wishes to deviate from the schedule, that parent asks the other to accommodate. The other parent may choose to accommodate or not. If the other parent does not accommodate the parent “on duty” must make other arrangements.
- Neither parent is obligated to provide justification for a requested change, but courtesy requires some basic information to assist the other to decide what to do. Provide the same information you would provide if you were asking an acquaintance for help.
- When a deviation from the schedule is initiated by a child, the child is required to seek agreement from both parents. Parents should talk to confirm and make logistical decisions. Generally, surprise is not good.
- Pick up and delivery times should be agreed upon and adhered to. A parent should not be more than 10 minutes late or early. If there is a necessary delay, a phone call should be made by the parent who will be late or early. Courtesy is essential.
- Neither parent should arrive unexpectedly at the other’s residence. When picking up or delivering children, the parent driving should wait in the car and signal arrival by cell phone. Neither parent should enter the other’s residence without the express invitation of the other. The children cannot invite one parent into the home of the other.
- Neither parent should discuss the other parent’s personality or other personal information with the children. The children are not appropriate recipients of criticism or analysis of the other parent. Nor is it appropriate to ask the children for information about the other parent. The children should not be used as conduits of information from one parent to the other. Finally, details of the divorce should not be discussed with the children.
- When children complain about the other parent, they should be directed to take the matter up with that parent. If you are concerned that the issue is vital, call the other parent to report but not criticize. If you are unable to resolve the issue and you regard the issue as very important, ask for a mediation session. Do not engage in arguments about the other’s parenting.