by Jamie Williamson, PhD
Here’s a special “shout out” to my neighbor, who is such a great dad. This is his weekend to be with his kids. He’ll have them Friday night and Saturday until 6 p.m., when he will take them to their mom’s house so they can wake up with her on Mother’s Day. That’s his Mother’s Day gift to her and to his children.
Does he want to cut his parenting time short? Of course not! But, he will because he knows it is in the best interest of his children to have a strong, loving relationship with their mother.
And, he’s right. In most cases (and there are obvious exceptions) the “best interests of the child” include having a close, loving relationship with both parents.
Ideally, all children would grow up with parents who worked together (whatever the family configuration) to ensure and encourage their child’s physical and mental well-being, happiness, security, intellectual growth, and socio-emotional development.
But, let’s get real. Accomplishing this ideal requires a great deal of effort and self-sacrifice in the best of circumstances. And, it can be particularly difficult for parents who are contemplating divorce, in the middle of a divorce, or already living separate lives. How do these parents balance their own happiness and well-being with their children’s best interests?
Florida Family Law Statutes codify the factors that determine “the best interest of the child” in child custody disputes and the courts consider an amalgamation of these factors when making decisions about custody. Fortunately, parents can also consider these criteria during mediation to work out a parenting arrangement that is in the best interest of their children based on their own unique circumstances.
This week I learned of a divorced mother who agreed to relocate to where her children’s father was being transferred, so that her children could have a meaningful relationship with their dad. I also learned of a divorced mother who plans to remain living near her children’s dad, rather than move out-of-state with her fiancé. She’ll have a long-distance new marriage so that her children won’t lose regular and frequent contact with either of their parents.
These are exemplary mothers, who — without a court order — agreed to sacrifice their own self-interest in order to do what they know is in the long-term best interest of their children. And, of course, there are many other divorced mothers whose choices were less dramatic, but the outcome is still the same. These moms cooperatively adjust their own schedule to share parenting with their children’s father in various arrangements that serve the best interest of their children.
On this Mother’s Day, let’s applaud all mothers (and mother surrogates) who make sacrifices on behalf of their children every day. Let’s give a standing ovation those moms who sacrifice their own self-interests so that their children can have a relationship with their dad. And, let’s give a special shout-out to dad’s who gave up “their” time with the kids so the kids could share Mother’s Day with their mom.
If you’re struggling to decide what type of parenting plan is in the best interest of your children, you might find try mediation as an amicable way to “work it out”.
Let me know if I can help.