Stay Connected : Tips For Non- Custodial Parents And Joint Custody Parenting

My son and I have always shared a very close relationship. However, when my son transitioned to live with his aw with his father legally within our joint custody arrangement I’m not considered the primary parent. It was a big shift within our relationship from seeing each other everyday to every weekend, but I was determined as a mother to make sure despite the obvious changes that we would stay close as we’ve always been. I’ve heard the many stereotypes that Non- Custodial parents are deadbeats, unsupportive, and not actively involved which is far from the truth. Non- Custodial parents or parents who share joint custody without living full time with their children can still be equally involved, supportive, share duties, and have a tight bond with their children.

Didn’t Say It Was Easy

It’s a little over an hour difference currently five days out of the week between my son and I. Most who have known us throughout the years are shocked when I tell them that he lives with his father majority of the time. It wasn’t the easiest for me emotionally and physically at first with the transition of him moving with my ex-husband. I was primarily the one who took him to all his doctors appointments, coached a few seasons on his basketball team, and he also was heavily present with me in being my by my side in working with youth programming throughout the years. I also homeschooled my son for three years prior to him moving in with with his father. I felt guilty, and although we were in agreement with him moving in with his father I was curious about how this transition would effect our relationship as mother and son. Please check out my blog post in reference to how all this came about. Separate But Never Apart :

Making It Work

Thankfully through prayer our bond wasn’t easily broken as we remain just as tight as ever. He also has a great relationship with his father and his bonus parents. I know that the dynamics of each co-parenting situation may defer in being peaceful, tense, or high conflict. Our case proved that despite how the adults may feel about one another that one little boy’s well being of being happy, centered, focused, and surrounded with love goes beyond history. My son is happy as long as things are as close to normal as possible. It’s important for him to know that despite the distance that he’s still actively apart of each family respectively, everyone gets along, see his cheerleaders (parents & siblings)in the audience for his activities, and be able to share quality time with both families.

Here are some helpful tips that both mothers and fathers can use to stay close and connected if they aren’t the primary guardian.

  1. Be Actively Involved : Do your best if long distance is not an issue to be involved physically in participating with your children. You may not be able to attend every event due to work, or other but at least try to come to a few school functions, activities, special programs, and sporting events. The first year of my son’s transition to live with his father I was there to help him register for school, attend more extracurricular activities, functions, and while his father worked I took him to his doctor’s appointments. When I went back to work fulltime things changed from our monthly lunch dates at his school, but I was there for some of his football games. I also cheered him on for his first honors day.
  2. Fulfill Your Financial Obligations Of Child Support & Other Financial Needs: Financially we care for three of his siblings at home in addition to paying child support. That was a big change.His father paid child support when he was full time in my care, and I took care whatever needs he had at home of etc. The roles have reversed. Children and teens have financial needs and things come up such as medical expenses, field trips, glasses, braces, food, and clothing, The agreement of what should be allotted to follow through for child support should be adhered to at best per both parents in agreement or court order. Don’t allow the fear of paying child support to separate you from your child.
  3. Be Proactive In Learning The Ongoings Of Activities & Special Events: Although, the primary parent or guardian is to share information about events at school, activities, and medical information to you don’t always hold your trust in that. If possible visit the school’s website to find out more information on dates, details, and ongoings at your child’s school in being a Non Custodial parent being sure to mark your calendar.Medical information may be a bit tricky, but keep your court ordered agreement regarding your rights present and close to hand if needed. Sometimes co- parenting can be tricky and messy in the beginning phase of a divorce. Do your best to be respectful in being proactive in knowing your rights to knowledge and being involved as a Non Custodial parent.
  4. Make Time To Connect: Make your time spent with your children count. Make time to call throughout the week to check on them and create dialogue. You can video chat if long distance is an issue. It can be awkward with teens and little ones in having an extended conversation, but deep down know that they appreciate your willingness to check in.
  5. Honor Your Visitation: Do your best to honor your visitation by following through. We meet at a half point due to the distance. Try not to cancel unless an emergency or work related situation. If you missed a visit communicate with the primary parent to see if you can make up a date. If the co-parenting situation is high conflict where communication is best to be done in court simply make the next visit count with our sixth point of much needed quality time.
  6. Share Quality Time: Depending on the visitation arrangement it can feel rushed trying to squeeze it all in with a weekend visit. The quality time you share in your short time matters the most than the length regarding your custody agreement. My son and I share in “Mother & Son” date nights where we explore a new activity, try a new restaurant, go for a long drive, or just chat alone Take advantage if you have a written agreement or a good relationship with the primary parent to share in extended time together for the holidays and the summers. My son shares a family vacation with his father’s side, but he spends the summer and extended breaks with us. The days he’s out of school he’s here with me.
  7. Keep The Time You Share Together About You & The Children Only: Don’t waste your energy, time, and the importance of you connecting with your children to load on projects from work, nosey inquiring about the life and on goings of your ex spouse or partner especially if you know it’s not dangerous, life threatening, or detrimental. Try not to use this time to bring up the past in bad mouthing the other parent. Keep this short time together centered on family.
  8. Be Sure To Surround Them With Other Positive Adults & Family Members: Be sure to surround your children within your visitation as the Non- Custodial parent or joint arrangement time during the time they are with you in custody with adults who are equally loving, caring, respectful, kind, protective, and encouraging.

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