There are tremendous benefits both at a macro and micro level for a child to have 2-parents actively involved in her life. Checkout the data from places like the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services on the huge differences between parenting set-ups in terms of income/poverty, alcohol/drug abuse, suicide, and school performance between single-parent vs. dual-parent homes and it should give you a big wake-up call. Because ultimately at a personal level as a potential parent you need to think long and hard about the situation that you are putting your kid into when doing your family planning.
Yet, in our Firm’s work we see many situations where a parent, most often a father, has been absent from his child’s life for an extended period of time. And sometimes it’s the dad’s fault (life choices like criminal behavior), but, just as often it’s a mother’s actions and alienation that has caused the absence. Regardless of the history though, it’s very possible to re-start your parenting time even after an absence of many years. We handle a lot of these situations and support parents looking to do just that…PARENT!
So, if you had a rough patch in life or maybe just a real contentious divorce where the children were ‘stuck in the middle’ and relationships were impacted but you love your son/daughter and want to have a great relationship with him/her again, here’s what to do or think about, NEXT:
- It’s VERY DOABLE. Outside of a scenario where a parent is a ‘serious endangerment’ and I mean severe stuff like child molester or violent criminal, Court’s want both parents involved in a child’s life. I can think of like 1 time in 15-years of being a family law attorney where a Court refused a parent’s overture to restart parenting time. And the situation I’m thinking of included a kid who was 17-years-old and basically expressed his own preference to the Judge and thus the father got denied…that’s the only situation I have seen in HUNDREDS of cases. Just in the last month we assisted a father in seeing his 9-year-old daughter for the first time in 7-years and he was SO HAPPY!
- Expect Resistance. Despite some of what I think are fairly generally known benefits to dual-parenting (such as those listed above), our Firm is involved in a LOT of situations involving parenting reunification because many parents are not making this sort of parenting ‘re-start’ easy. There are surely times where the other parent is a threat to a child and then resisting his/her parenting rights is appropriate. We have a case going now where a father hasn’t seen his daughter in 5+ years and now wants parenting time but he’s got some violent junk in his past and has damaged the child in the past so we’re fighting it. Generally, I think the resistance stems from baggage in the relationship between the parents clouding a parents judgment when it comes to what is in the best interests of a child (most often).
- Baby Steps. If there has been oh more than 6-months of time since a parent last saw his kid, a parenting time restart is NOT going to just be a simple resumption of unrestricted, full, overnight parenting time. Usually, I want to get some virtual visitation started immediately PLUS 1-2 in-person visits (even if only a meal or something) scheduled over 1-3 months (possibly longer if the parents don’t reside near one another). This will tell everyone if the absent parent is serious about re-engaging based on her/his follow-through AND it will allow a Court to review impact on the child. I have seen situations where a kid is very impacted and very anxious about her father reinserting himself into his daughter’s life. Conversely, I have seen situations where the kid doesn’t miss a beat and parenting time jumps back to normal/unrestricted parenting time almost immediately thereafter.
- Get Help for You & Your Kid(s). Arrange for counseling both individually and perhaps a more group/family setting whereby a professional assists in the reunification process.
- Get Off Your But(t). Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your and your kid’s life. You can’t change the past. You can change the future course of your and your kid’s life in a big and BENEFICIAL way. Take a minute and envision what your life and your son’s life may look like in 6-months, 1-year from now if you TAKE ACTION to restart your parenting time now…it can be a beautiful thing.
Chicago Family Law Group has been supporting families and protecting children since 2005 and can help you re-start parenting time right now. We always offer a free, 45-minute consultation…schedule it here.