Hi, Kris. I have a basic question regarding visitation. My Exhusband and I have a “standard” extended visitation schedule. I am the primary (custodial) parent. He gets our child every first, third, and fifth weekend…and 30 days during the summer with all the standard holiday stuff, etc. Because it is relevant to the end of this story, I should tell you that my Ex lives with his mother….so she gets to see our daughter quite often during the year…as much as my Ex does. Well, this year, right before my Ex’s 30 days of possession this summer, he and his girlfriend are going out of the country on a cruise (June 24 – July 2). He didn’t realize it encompassed his “fifth” weekend (June 29 – July 1) when he scheduled the cruise. Now, because he can’t “exercise his parental rights of visitation” that weekend, he wants me to trade him a weekend…but father’s day weekend is off the table and that leaves very few weekends at my option…and this is RIGHT before I’m going to be separated from my daughter for 30 days anyway. I’m not inclined to “trade” one of my weekends. Because I won’t “trade,” he said, even though he isn’t even going to be in this country at the time, that he would send his mother (who has no court assigned visitation rights) to come and get her for the weekend. I feel that he’s “informed me that he’s unable to exercise his parental rights that weekend” and that, although he may designate a competent adult to drop the child off or pick her up for “transportation purposes” only, I don’t believe he can ASSIGN his parental rights of visitation to someone else. Can he? Can I refuse to give my child to someone else when he’s unable to exercise his visitation?
I know the courts want both parents to be involved in the child’s life and in raising her. However, if she can’t be with her dad…because he’s on a cruise with his girlfriend…I believe the next best person for her to be with is her mother.
Can I refuse to turn her over to his mother that weekend while he’s gone?
Thanks so much for your advise.
Williamson County Mother
Well, you are asking me a legal question and I cannot comment on that without getting into trouble because I am not a lawyer. But I would suggest that you and the Ex are the best people to figure out what to do here and this is an opportunity to practice responding to this problem as well as future dilemmas without undue expense or a court battle. Here are some questions I would ask you both to consider in making this decision.
1. How old is your daughter?
2. Is your daughter old enough to have an opinion and, if so, what would she like to do?
3. While there are primary “positions” being stated by you and her father as to what you each want, I would ask you what interests (yours, your Ex’s and your daughter’s) are being served by the positions taken by each of you? –in other words, what is being accomplished by holding on to your opposed positions…
4. Six months from now, or a year or two down the road, what significance will a decision either way have on you both as a co-parenting in terms of taking care of your daughter?.
5. Lastly, what model do you want to exemplify for your daughter when she is faced with a tough decision such as this one—what values, beliefs or otherwise standards of conduct would you want her to learn by watching her parents practice this and future decision making?
These are the kinds of questions a mediator would explore with the two of you in a private setting without your daughter or the grandmother present in hopes that the two of you would be able to set aside any personal agendas from history or current relationship challenges and begin practicing a focused effort on how to “team parent”.
Legal issues aside, I can tell you that the most successful post divorce parenting teams with the best adjusted children are those that are willing to let go of each of their hard and held-fast positions in order to examine what will accomplish the goal –that of giving your daughter the security of knowing her parents love her, want the best for her and can work together to figure out what to do in a given situation posing a challenge. Staying peaceful and mutually supportive of one another in your daughter’s eyes will be the best parenting gift you both can give her. A mediator can help you figure out how to do this.
Let us know if we can help you with a mediation for you and your Ex. This is a great example of a case for mediation at the Center.