By Earl N Jackson
Dallas, Texas
Board Certified
Texas Board of Legal Specialization
214-369-7100

 

Visitation Do and Don’ts

Visitation can be one of the hardest factors of a temporary order or divorce decree to implement. It is just a fact that there are those who would use visitation as a weapon to get back at their former spouse. Fact is, this “weapon” will eventually turn against them. Remember, the child will be 18 one day and will move out of the home. It is at that time and beyond that childhood memories will come back upon the parent/conservator that used visitation as a weapon. Unless there is good reason for it, don’t use visitation as a weapon. Don’t withhold visitation. Be advised, that the former spouse can and possibly will go to Court to seek modification or change in custody if you use visitation as a weapon. If you withhold visitation, you are taking the risk that you will be held in contempt of court.  You will be fined.  You will be jailed. You will owe the attorney’s fees

Encourage your former spouse to be an involved parent. Encourage your child’s relationship with their other parent. Support each other in matters of parenting and disciplining.  The following article was provided by Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.; Family Life Extension Specialist; Human Development and Family Studies; Iowa State University

For both parents and children, visitation is critical to maintaining a sense of connectedness both during and after a divorce.  In the early states of family restructuring and co-parenting, it is frequently a source of conflict.

If former spouses want revenge, finding ways to spoit a visitation is easy.  If they want to help their chidren through a difficult transition, they will find ways to make visitation successful.

For visitation to work, both parents need to accept and acknowlede that their children have two homes – one with their father and one with their mother.  Parents need to make sure that their chidlren aresafe and comfortable in both places, even if they don’t spend equal time there.  They need to help make the transition from one ohome to the other smooth and calm.  They also need to make sure they are being consistent in rules and discipline.

Constructive Parenting Goals

The following guidelines are examples of parenting goals that can help children grow into healthy, happy, whole people.

Both parents should encourage visitation to help their children grow in positive ways. Children need to know it is OK to love both parents. In general, parents should treat each other with respect for their children’s benefit. Each parent should respect the other’s child-raising views by trying, when possible, to be consistent. For example, if one parent strongly opposes toy guns for small children, the other should take this into account when buying gifts Each parent is entitled to know where the children are during visitations. They should also know if the children are left with other people such as babysitters or friends when the other parent is not there. Parents should try to agree on their children’s religious education, as well as who is responsible for overseeing it. Parents should tell each other their current addresses and home and work phone numbers. Both parents should realize that visita-tion schedules may change as children age and their needs change.

Tips for Smooth Transitions:

  • Be as flexible as possible with schedules.
  • Treat your former spouse with respect.
  • Help children feel safe and comfortable in both homes.
  • Help children feel safe and comfortable in both homes.
  • Help children feel safe and comfortable in both homes.
  • Don’t question your children’s loyalty.
  • Help make the transition from one home to the other smooth and calm.
  • Discuss rules and discipline with your former spouse so you are consistent.

Texas Child Visitation Do:

  • Be flexible about visitation schedules  Give the other parent advance notice of changes in your schedule. Remember to give the other parent your vacation schedule in advance. Remember that your children may have plans that could affect your visitation schedule.
  • Make Visitation a normal part of life’s routine.
  • Find activities that give you and your children an opportunity to build your relationship. Allow time together without planned activities just to “hang out.” Provide a balance between fun and responsibility for your children.
  • Encourage visitation that includes grandparents and extended family.
  • Make sure your children have their own places in your home even if it is just part of a room so they feel it is also their home. Help your children meet other kids in your neighborhood so they have friends at both homes. Try to keep a routine schedule to help prepare your children for visitation. Have a checklist of items such as clothing and toys that your children need to take on visitations. If the children are old enough, they can help pack. If it’s appropriate, allow your children to bring friends along occasionally. Spend individual time with each of your children.
  • Show respect for your former spouse and concern for your children.
  • Be on time.
  • Inform your former spouse if a new person such as a babysitter or romantic partner will be part of the visitation.
  • Share changes in your address, home and work phone numbers, and in your job with your former spouse.

Texas Child Visitation Don’ts:

Some parents use visitation to achieve destructive goals. These are goals based on revenge, such as one parent hurting the other or disrupting his or her life. To achieve those goals, parents may use destructive behaviors that can create a more hostile environment and seriously damage relationships. Destructive strategies can be deeply hurtful to children caught in the middle. The Following are tips for avoiding destructive behavior.

  • Don’t refuse to communicate with your former spouse.
  • Don’t use your children to relay divorce-related messages on issues such as child support. Those issues should be discussed by adults only.
  • Don’t make your children responsible for making, canceling, or changing visitation plans. Those are adult responsibilities.
  • Don’t use your children to spy on your former spouse.
  • Don’t fight with the other parent during drop-off and pickup times. Deal with important issues when your children cannot overhear.
  • Don’t disrupt your children’s relationship with their other parent.
  • Don’t make your children feel guilty about spending time with their other parent.
  • Don’t use visitation as a reward for good behavior, and don’t withhold it as punishment for poor behavior.
  • Don’t tell your children you will feel lonely and sad if they visit their other parent.
  • Don’t withhold visitation to punish your former spouse for problems such as missed child support payments. Withholding visitation punishes your children, who are not guilty.
  • Don’t withhold visitation because you feel your former spouse doesn’t deserve to see the children. Unless a parent is a genuine threat, adults and children need to see each other.
  • Don’t use false abuse accusations to justify withholding visitation.
  • Don’t let activities such as sports and hobbies interfere with the time your children spend with their other parent. Your former spouse can transport the children to those activities if needed and can sometimes participate.
  • Don’t pressure your children about leaving clothes or toys at their other parent’s home. The children need to feel they belong in both places.
  • Don’t falsely claim that your children are sick to justify withholding visitation.
  • Don’t withhold phone calls to your children from their other parent.
  • Don’t put down the other parent’s new romantic partner.
  • Don’t allow your anger to affect your relationship with your children.
  • Don’t hurt your children by failing to show up for visitation or by being late.
  • Don’t spoil your children to buy their loyalty and love.
  • Don’t let your children blackmail you by refusing to visit unless you buy them something.
  • Don’t try to bribe your children.
  • Don’t feel you need to be your children’s buddy for visitations to be successful. Your children need you to be a parent.
  • Don’t try to fill every minute of a visit. Allow some down time for routine activities such as cooking or laundry, or quiet time just to be together.

All of these visitation don’ts undercut children’s ability to develop an open and supportive relationship with both parents. One of the best ways to support children involved in a separation or divorce is to do what you can to make visitations go smoothly. Focusing on visitation dos is a first step in helping children adjust.

 

You want to really get your case off to a bad start, use your child as leverage in your divorce or modification suit; or communicate with your spouse or former spouse through the child and/or tell the child he/she doesn’t have to go on “visitation” — that they get to choose.

References

  • Wallerstein, Judith S. and Joan Berlin Kelly. 1980. Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope With Divorce.
  • Wallerstein, Judith S. and Sandra Blakeslee. 1990. Second Chances: Men, Women and Children A Decade After Divorce – Who Wins, Who Loses – and Why. Ticknor & Fields, N.Y.