What is your dream gift? For some it might be a brand-new, candy-red Porsche 911 Carrera GTS with fewer miles than they have birthdays. For others, a sparkling new Rolex Daytona or other similarly rare timepiece that not only leaps off of one’s wrist into bystanders’ eyes but also stands apart as being of such limited quantity that the likelihood of anyone else in the state owning one is about as good as your chance of hitting the Powerball. These material items are the gifts of dreams, tangible goods that make people feel important and valued. But think back to when you were a child. Was there anything better than watching the ball game with your dad? Or helping your mom bake a sheet of fresh cookies? I bet if you ask your children, they can come up with a laundry list of items they’d like Santa to deliver under their Christmas tree. But I can also guarantee you they’d trade every one of those gifts for the present of spending quality time with you.
The State of Georgia presumes that it is in the best interest of minor children to have both parents actively participating in their lives. This is a rebuttable presumption, and there are certainly instances where a parent’s continued involvement can actively work against the child’s health and wellbeing. But that is a high bar to clear and courts like to create plans that facilitate parents being able to parent their children as feasibly as possible. But how do you, going through a divorce or legitimation action, separate your interests from your children’s best interests? After all, you’re getting the divorce for a reason. Divorces are often the result of years of psychological warfare, sleeping under the same roof as your enemy, maintaining facades for other benefits. Somewhere down the line there was a breakdown in communication and trust, and the person you are leaving is not the same one you married. Maybe it was an affair or mishandling of the family finances. Maybe your partner committed acts of violence against you and you are (rightfully) looking to free yourself from that kind of abuse. But your spouse not being right for you does not make them wrong for your children. In cases where there are minor children involved, you have to separate what’s right for you and what’s right for them.
This is far easier said than done. “She cheated on me!” “He left for milk nine months ago and somehow detoured into that hooker’s lap across town!!” “How could they do this to me? To us?!” But your children want to see their parent. They don’t understand why Mom & Dad no longer being Mom with Dad has to impact their relationship with either Mom or Dad. They want Mom in the stands for their basketball games. They want Dad embarrassing them in the crowd at piano recitals. They want to feel loved by both of their parents and know they can go to either of them for anything because neither of them feels like a stranger in their lives. But how do you create a co-parenting environment conducive to that?
Parenting plans are typically required in actions where custody of minor children is being determined. Typically, you will have the opportunity to negotiate and account for how you want that parenting plan to best fit both parties’ interests. Dividing holidays and weekends, birthdays and extracurriculars, and the various other elements of a parenting plan can be contentious to say the least. But what if we approached those negotiations from a different lens? What if, instead of focusing on what we wanted to see happen, we took into account what our children might prefer?
This is by no means a call to involve minor children in your litigation. Asking your five-year old how much time they want to spend with your soon to be ex is very likely to be above their proverbial paygrade. But you know your child. You know when they are happiest, what makes them tick, and how important their time with their parent means to them. Or maybe you don’t and there’s an answer in your lack of knowledge you’re not ready to accept.
At the end of the day, your children deserve the opportunity to have a healthy relationship with both of their parents whenever possible. It doesn’t matter why the two of you can’t work it out to them, while it matters a great deal to know the two of you will work it out for them. Divorce is stressful enough on the family dynamic. Don’t allow your negative emotions toward your spouse to cloud the parent-child relationship. Trying to push a good parent out of the picture for being a bad spouse can have a long-term negative impact on everyone involved. And if that good-for-nothing spouse ends up being a good-for-nothing parent you can always file a modification to protect your child’s best interest.
We here at The Manely Firm, P.C. take pride in helping families reach agreements that propel them into their new realities. If you need help figuring out what’s best for your family’s future, please do not hesitate to reach out to learn how we can help assist you with accomplishing your goals.
Your presence with your children is the best present you can give them; let us assist you with wrapping that present and putting a pretty bow on it.