My House, My Rules

It sounds cliché (because it is), but if I had a dollar for every time I heard my parents tell me, “as long as you live under my roof, you will follow my rules” I assure you I would be enjoying an early retirement somewhere sunny. When I was a kid, all I could think about was finding another roof to live under. Now, as a parent myself…well like many of us, I am turning into my parents. I suspect I will utter these same words to my kids soon enough.

This blog is not about turning into our parents. It is about dealing with discipline and consistency in co-parenting situations; situations where your children literally have another roof to live under.

All of the “experts” on raising children talk about consistency and predictability as being the cornerstone of good parenting. You will hear talk of “being on the same page” and working as a team. That makes sense. I remember as a kid trying to get one over on my parents. I would ask my mom if I could do something, I would get rebuffed and then going to ask my dad. (In my case, my dad’s response was always “go ask your mother” so that did very little to help me.) What I did not know then (and I know now) my parents actually talked to each other all the time…it was like they were married or something. Who knows?

See and that is my point. Keeping things consistent was easier for them since they were living in the same house. If you reading this blog, there is a high probability that you are in a co-parenting scenario where your children are living in two different homes. This type of situation requires a bit more work to maintain consistency.

I am not a child psychologist, but I spend a lot of time speaking with them and listening to what they have to say. What I hear most often is that in order to have a successful co-parenting relationship, the parents have to learn how to communicate about their children. Communication is the key to successful co-parenting. None of us are mind readers, so unless we tell the other parent what we are thinking, they will not know.   Sometimes this can be difficult, and many times one parent refuses to communicate, or when they do communicate, it is not effective. That can because they are hurtful, disinterested, or angry.   In these situations, it is important to seek the assistance of professionals to understand the reasons for the communication breakdown and tools to address them. A parenting course such as Kid’s Turn not only helps good parents be better parents, but they teach skills for dealing with uncooperative parents. I know for good parents it seems unfair that they must go to a parenting course, but remember information and knowledge will benefit you and your children.

Even when parents communicate effectively, that does not mean they will agree with how the other parent runs their home. This can manifest in disagreements about how much computer/iPad time the children have each night, what their curfew is, whether they are allowed to drive, have friends over to the house, or wear makeup. The list goes on, and in my opinion this is one of the most difficult issues I address with co-parenting. The reason is there is almost nothing I (nor the Judge) can do about this. You see, unless the other parent’s decisions are actively putting the children’s health/safety/welfare at risk, the Court will not intervene to stop the other parent.

This can be very difficult to accept and has led to more contested custody cases than I care remember. Highly contested custody cases are hard on children and should be avoided if possible.   I explain to my client’s that if they have raised responsible and well-adjusted children (and most parents have), differences between their parents’ homes will not have detrimental impact on them or their future.   On the other hand, watching their parents fight over them for years will have a deep and lasting impact on them.

This is why it is important to have a seasoned child custody litigator by your side to help guide you through this process so that you know what issues are worth fighting for and what issues are better left alone.

If you anticipate a legal child custody battle as a result of a divorce, it is important to know that a lawyer can help you understand the process accurately.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.


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