Custody and child support can be gigantic brick walls many divorced parents, both custodial and non-custodial, seem to always run up against. Mainly because there are a metric ton of misconceptions about who has what rights, and when, and what it all actually means, here is common sense custody advice from one dad to another.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I am in the relatively rare (though not unheard of) position where I am the father and custodial parent. That said, I am writing this with a view that you may, or may not be, the parent with primary physical custody.

So, here’s a couple of pointers to get you started:

  • Before I go too much further, the best resource to go to for advice is your attorney. I am not a lawyer, and most folks offering random opinions on social media probably aren’t either. Don’t ever mistake anecdotal advice (such as what I’m about to provide) with legal advice. For one thing, my understanding of the law (which I have to abide by, in my situation) could be different between my state and yours. Always consult a lawyer for actual legal questions.
  • My state has their “parenting-time” guidelines, as they like to call them, posted online, up-to-date with revisions. Your state probably does too. You can start out by checking into the Guyvorce Divorce Law Summaries by State for more information.

So, let’s get into some of the burning questions about visitation, or “parenting-time,” or whatever your jurisdiction chooses to call it, and my common sense custody advice in answer to those questions.

Who has visitation rights?

In short, both parents have the right to see the children. Sure, the custodial parent is much more likely to see the children the majority of the time. However, unless the non-custodial parent has been proven in a court of law to be either criminal chemist Walter White or serial killer Countess Bathory (or more likely, delinquent in her/his duties as a parent, and judged unfit), the non-custodial parent is entitled to visitation rights, whether you like it or not.

What if the non-custodial parent is delinquent on child support payments?

Again, see the pointers above about asking an attorney first. However, by and large, the issues of child visitation and child support are two different issues. Neither one is dependent on the other. Even if the non-custodial parent is several thousands of dollars in arrears, that parent gets to see the kids.

Repeat: the two are not connected. If you (or more to the point, the children) are owed back support money, talk to your local prosecutor’s office about it. But do not withhold visitation from the non-custodial parent. Doing so could potentially land you in legal trouble, including a contempt of court charge.

And believe me, I speak from experience on this one!

How are holidays supposed to work?

Typically, these will be spelled out within the body of the state’s guidelines. Usually it’s an every-other-year type of trade off: you get them Christmas one year, Thanksgiving the next, etc. Of course, there will be times when something extra-special arises, that will prompt an alteration of the state-set guidelines. However, they are just that: guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Best thing to do is to work it out with the other parent. Sometimes, just asking nicely works wonders in these situations.

If you have a court-approved parenting agreement, be sure to get any changes in writing. If you have a civil relationship with the other parent, see if You Can Modify a Parenting Plan Without Going to Court through mediation.

What if the non-custodial parent wants more time than the guidelines suggest?

Again: these are guidelines, not commandments etched into stone tablets. The best way I can put this is, there is nothing wrong at all with the non-custodial parent wanting to spend more time with her/his kids. In fact, speaking as a custodial parent who’s had, shall we say, “sketchy” commitments from my ex as far as more time spent with the kids, I actively encourage it. You may have room to be flexible if there’s an opportunity for more parenting time with the other parent. What’s the worst that can happen?

What if the kids don’t want to go to their other parent’s house?

Well. Sometimes this is regrettable, but it happens. However, the fact is, the non-custodial parent is entitled to see the kids for the proscribed times. If there are issues, or conflicts on that end, the conflicts need to be resolved, on all sides, whether it be through counseling, mediation or legal action. The point is, unless there is an imminent danger to the safety and well-being of the children, the kids themselves cannot refuse to go. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is. Of course, it is always advisable to get any sort of problems like this worked out prior to visitation time.

Common Sense Custody Advice – Both Parents Have Rights

These are but a few questions that can arise from the issues surrounding children, custody, and visitation rights. As always, consult a lawyer for any questions you might have. Just remember, everyone involved has rights, whether you want them to or not. Compromise is always the best route to keep what’s already a difficult situation from getting any worse. But don’t feel walked over, either.

And for crying out loud, pay your support, too.

What common sense custody advice do you have for divorced dads? Leave your advice in the comments below.


Good advice is worth spreading around.

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(c) Can Stock Photo / nuiiko

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