Consent arrangement or court order will specify the time that the children are to spend with each parent.
Some of the most common disputes that we see involving parenting concerns what is commonly known as visitation rights; in other words, who has the children and when.Often a consent arrangement or court order will specify a schedule for the time that the children are to spend with each parent, but unfortunately, the parent’s lives (and those of the children) don’t always fit within Court prescribed parameters.
Typical arrangements might call for one parent to have the children every alternate weekend, perhaps one-night midweek and alternate holiday periods. For most people, such a regulated schedule cannot always be adhered to. Special events and emergencies may call for the need to change these times.
This sounds reasonable, but if your ex-spouse is one who insists upon living by the book and will not budge when you want to make a time change, it causes problems. It is not easy to overcome this difficulty. However, there are ways to handle an inflexible ex-spouse.
The following tips can help to reduce the disputes and maximise the opportunity to be flexible about parenting times.
Adhere to the schedule as best you can because it is important not to disrupt the children’s sense of continuity. It is hard enough for kids to go back and forth between their parents – changing times can make it even more difficult. Children need a routine, and they need order. You are likely to find that if you are insisting upon flexibility regularly, your ex-spouse may become even more inflexible.
Assuming that you are constant with the schedule as far as possible and your ex-spouse won’t “give” – what do you do? This is where negotiation and diplomacy skills come to the fore. Just because the marriage is over, raising the children isn’t, so here are some suggestions:
Letters - If your ex-spouse is inflexible, try writing kind and thoughtfully worded letters that reflect your requests. A spoken dialogue on the subject may spark an altercation. Respectful correspondence could be a great start – assertive is fine; aggressive is not.
Conversations - If you do contact your ex-spouse regarding any changes by telephone or in person, be polite and courteous at all times, especially if he or she isn’t. This approach could play a major factor in getting you what you want.
If letters and calm conversations don’t work, try a bartering system. Some type of trade-off can be very effective. Issue your ex-spouse a “credit” (put in it writing) for the time slot that he or she is changing for you in exchange of a time that he or she may want from you in the future. Let your ex-spouse “bank” these credits and utilise them. If you adopt this system, you must practice what you preach.
You will have to be flexible when asked to redeem these credits. This approach enables the other parent to feel as though he or she is getting something in return for being flexible and getting it right away. With credits in the “bank,” your ex-spouse is likely to feel a sense of power rather than being imposed upon. Don’t ask to trade too often – abusing the process will cause it to fail.
You may need to contact your lawyer if the above procedures don’t resolve the issue. You may need to do so if there is an extended period in which your ex-spouse won’t make any reasonable schedule changes. Using the legal process to overcome these difficulties can be stressful and costly, and it is best to exhaust the other options we have recommended beforehand if you can.