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When The Cat is Away

Can you control what your kids do when they’re spending time with your ex?

Generally speaking each parent gets to make decisions regarding a child’s activities during their period of physical custody. The State of California, represented by the judicial officer, is not the “super parent” entitled to make the usual decisions regarding how to raise children. When parents disagree about some activity (I’ve seen things like riding on motorcycles or scooters, flying in a private plane, sailboat ride, playing certain sports, eating certain foods, etc.) the limitation on the judicial officer is finding some solid evidence of actual danger to the child. To see just how high that burden is take a look at In re Marriage of Mentry, 142 Cal. App. 3d 260 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1983). That case was always my touchstone when these issues were brought to me. — Honorable Judge Robert Schnider (Retired)

The Inalienable Rights of Children

I have the right to love whom I choose without guilt, pressure or rejection.

I have the right to love as many people as I want; stepparents, relatives, and extended family, without guilt and without being made to feel disloyal. The more love I give, the more I have to give, and the more I receive.

I have the right to a regular, daily and weekly routine; one that is not filled with alternating patterns and disruption.

I have a right to visit both parents, regardless of grownup wants or wishes regarding convenience, money, or their feelings. I own visitation, it is my right, it is not the right of my parents.

I have a right to be angry, sad, and fearful, and I have a right to express these feelings.

I have a right to be protected from being exposed to the anger of my parents, to not be punished because they are angry at each other, or to see them punishing each other.

I have a right to like both my parents, since they are both a part of me, and I have the right to be reassured that this is OK.

I have the right not to blame or choose sides.

I have the right not to have to make adult decisions.

I have the right to remain a child and to not replace a parent in my duties, or to have to be an adult companion, friend, or comforter to my parents.

I have the right not to ever have to choose with whom I live. This is a decision for wise adults. Having to make such a choice will always hurt someone else, and therefore myself. I have this right even when I’m a teenager and people wish I were able to choose, I can never choose between my parents.

Helping Your Children Through Divorce

1.  Tell your children the truth, with simple explanations.

2.  Tell them where their other parent has gone and when they will see them again.

3.  Reassure your children that they will continue to be taken care of and that they will be safe and secure.

4.  Your children see that parents sometimes stop loving each other. Explain that a parent’s love for their child is a special kind of love that never changes or goes away.

5.  See the wisdom in spending quality time every day with each child individually.

6.  Children may feel responsible for causing the divorce. Reassure them that they are not to blame. They may also feel responsible for bringing parents back together. Let them know that your decision is final and will have to be accepted.

7.  Divorcing parents often feel guilty and become overindulgent because their children have to go through a divorce. Give your child love and limits.

8.  Your child is still a child and cannot become the man of the house or the little mother. Continue to be a parent to your child. Seek other adults to fill your need for companionship.

9.  Avoid situations that place children in the impossible position of choosing between parents.

10.  Don’t use your child as a way to get back at your former spouse.  Avoid using your children as messengers between you and your former spouse.  Children can be terribly wounded when caught in the crossfire.

11.  Throughout life, you and your former spouse will continue to be the parents of your children. Pledge to cooperate responsibly towards the growth and development of your children as an expression of your mutual love for them.

12.  A divorce can be a time of loss for each member of the family. You are entitled to reach out for help and support.

13.  Be patient and understanding with your child.

14.  Be patient and understanding with yourself.