We get asked a lot of questions about divorce at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance. It’s our job to separate fact from fiction, to address misperceptions, and to help our clients understand how family law works while doing the heavy legal lifting. One misperception we hear quite a bit comes from people who are going through the anger and frustration inherent in many divorces, who want to keep their exes from having any parenting time at all with their children.
While we understand the impulses that would make people feel that way, we’re also quick to point out that, first and foremost, that’s not how family law works. In family law, judges look at what’s best for the children, laws are written with the welfare of children in mind, and many of the lawyers who choose to practice family law do so out of a motivation to protect children from the worst elements of divorce.
Children are better off having both of their parents involved in their lives as active parents. That’s why the law is set up to allow for each parent to have parenting time. While some parents are able to agree on equal time, even the default standard orders gives each parent substantial time with their children (that works out to being very close to a 50/50 split)
People don’t often lose the rights to parent their children. In a divorce case that goes to litigation, the judge will be primarily concerned with which parent has primary custodial rights, and will likely assign standard orders once that’s been established. But let’s say a parent is abusive or neglectful toward the children, or has some issue like a drug addiction that might interfere with the children’s welfare.
In those cases, a judge might implement a plan for the parent that would include treatment or counseling and supervised visits with the children until it’s determined that the parent can take care of the children. If the abuse is extreme enough and frequent enough, a parent could lose parenting rights altogether, but it’s uncommon for situations to rise to the level where that’s necessary.
For parents who are wanting to punish their soon-to-be-exes by withholding access to their children, the first piece of advice we give them is to think of their children and what’s best for their children. It can take a lot of personal emotional work to get over the anger that comes with divorce, and focusing on children – and working toward an amicable co-parenting relationship – is a good place to start.
The impulse to keep the other parent from seeing their children is also often a defense mechanism against what divorce brings. Splitting parenting time with an ex means that you no longer have your children with you 24-7, and it means there will be some holidays in the future where your children will be with your ex instead of you. Divorce comes with a very real, tangible sense of loss attached to the split in parenting time.
However, it’s a transition that children are also weathering – divorce being something that’s happening to them rather than something they’ve initiated or at least have been moving toward consciously.
Children going through divorce still love both their parents, and the time they get with each of them will be memorable as they get used to not being with both of them at the same time. Making sure they have that is vital, and it’s really one of the most important things for parents to work together to provide. Our counsel to those who seek sole custody – in cases where that’s not remotely possible – begins and ends with what’s best for the children.