How Noncustodial Parents Can Stay Involved in Their Children’s Lives (and Possibly Build Their Case for Increased Visitation Time or a Change of Custody)

Many noncustodial parents often wonder whether they will ever be able to increase visitation time or even someday regain custody of their child. Just as people often say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” cases for custody and visitation modification aren’t built overnight either.

Here are some general guidelines that noncustodial parents should follow to not only remain involved in their children’s lives but to also lay the stepping-stones to increase their parental time.

 1.     Stay informed about your child’s well-being.

Even if parents do not have any legal custody rights, they still have legal rights to access their child’s academic and health records. However, it is the responsibility of the noncustodial parent to request this information. The schools and doctors do NOT initiate this process.

 2.     Become more involved in your child’s life.

 Most schools have an electronic system that both parents can access to learn how their child is doing with grades and homework. Create an account and check it regularly. Understand and enforce school policies on homework, research projects, attendance, and behavior. Be active in your child’s academic life. Eat lunch with your child, join the local PTA, and attend back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, school productions, athletic events, and other school-related activities. Chaperone field trips or other school events, or offer to serve as a carpool driver. You might also coach a team or sponsor a club or activity.

 3.     Be consistent in communicating with your children between visits.

 Use the visitation time you have wisely and fully, and do not arrive late to visitation exchanges. If your children have access to cell phones, text them consistently—at least once a week—to see how they are doing. Do not ask them about court matters or snoop on the other parent’s life. If possible, do not move too far from the custodial parent, and try to stay within the same school district. Not only will this limit the driving time between exchanges, but it will also mean smaller adjustments for your child if you ask for more visitation time or a change in custody in the future.

 4.     Be prepared for your visit with your child.

 Make sure your home is adequately equipped for the child. If you have multiple children, make sure there are separate beds. As children become preteens and teenagers, it is especially important for them to have a sense of privacy. Try to maintain a work schedule that facilitates spending time with your kids. Unfortunately, working six days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. is not conducive to building a lifestyle that includes quality time with your children.

 5.     Address the root issues for your lack of visitation or child custody.

 If you have experienced addiction, mental health, or substance abuse issues in the past, continue with your treatment until your provider discharges you.

 6.     Be proactive to build a better relationship with your children and the other parent.

 For those with new spouses or partners, remember that parenting and discipline should fall on the biological parent. Don’t expect a stepparent to enforce discipline or rules. And don’t have your kids call the new stepparent “Mom” or “Dad.” Always take the high road, and communicate with the other parent in a professional, amicable manner. As much as possible, try not to let your children see any disagreement or conflict between you and your former partner.

 For more information on how to position yourself for more visitation time or to regain custody of your children, or for help with any family, criminal law, or personal injury matter, call me at 804-320-6600 or email me at jbaez@hmalaw.com.

 This post is provided as an educational service and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers in need of assistance with a legal matter should retain the services of competent counsel.