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What's the Score?

"She's done it again! We have a Parenting Plan that sets out the schedule. It's supposed to be my weekend with the kids and here comes some other reason I shouldn't have my weekend. Sure, last month, I needed to switch weekends because I had family coming and they wanted to see the kids, but she's now asked me to switch weekends six times this year and it's only May! And now this weekend, she wants to get the kids 3 hours earlier than she's supposed to! This is absurd!"

"If he asks me to wait half an hour later than the court order to call the kids one more time, I'm going to scream! The court order says 6:30pm. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. If he can't get home from work, cook dinner, finish homework, and have the kids ready to talk by 6:30 every single Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then maybe I should have custody and he can have visitation. Sure, last week, I asked to pick up an hour later on Friday and needed to drop them off on Sunday half an hour early, but that's to his benefit, not mine. We have a Court Order, and until the Judge tells me I have to wait until 7:00 to call, I'm going to just start calling at 6:30 until the phone gets answered."

The research is abundantly clear that children of high conflict divorces and high conflict post-divorce co-parenting suffer tremendously, not only during the remainder of their childhood, but carrying on into their adulthood. The conflict results in greatly affected relationships with one or both parents, chronic stress, anxiety and aggression problems, antisocial behaviors, lower grades in school, and depression. While children are resilient, and children of low-conflict divorces typically exhibit few, if any, lasting impacts from their parents divorce, the children of high-conflict divorces repeatedly suffer long term and sometimes permanent impacts from their parents' constant conflict.

One of the hallmarks of high conflict post-divorce relationships is the scorecard. Typically both parents keep a scorecard of their own, generally a result of one parent sharing with the other through some heated text message exchange that they can recite every instance that they "gave" an extra hour of visitation, or made some other accommodation. Pretty soon, both parents are insisting the other strictly abide by the Parenting Plan entered by the Court, all the while continuing to ask for accommodations when they're needed on their end.

At the end of your divorce, whether that's by mediation or by trial, you will have a Parenting Plan. That Parenting Plan, if carefully done, will literally set out which parent has the children on any given day. You can literally take it and create a calendar for the year that shows who has the children and when. And that Parenting Plan can be the end all be all - if it's not your time per the Parenting Plan, you don't have the children. But the most effective co-parenting situations are those where the Parenting Plan gets put in a desk drawer and, instead of tracking extra time afforded to the other parent, both parents realize that the more flexible they are with each other when it comes to time with the children, the better childhoods (and adulthoods) their children experience.

As a parent, what's more important, the score with your ex or your child's successful adjustment to post-divorce life?

David Purvis 

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