Sherry-Ann McGregor | Guidance in child-custody cases
From experience in handling child-custody cases and research, I have compiled some points that may be helpful to parents who have conflicts in relation to custody, care, and control and access to their children.
Parents who have separated must learn to communicate. If parties are to successfully co-parent a child, they must be able to communicate effectively in the interest of that child.
While the custody claim is in progress, the parent who has complained about lack of reasonable access to the child must continue to provide financial support for that child. After all, the child must continue to be cared for while the parents are in conflict.
Both parents need to maintain accurate records of the visitation schedule and maintenance payments that they make. By doing so, there may be one less issue to argue about if the matter has to go to trial.
ATTENDING IMPORTANT FUNCTIONS
For the child's sake, parents need to attend important social and school functions in the child's life. The parent who has care and control of the child should keep the other parent informed. However, the parent with whom the child does not reside also has to demonstrate keen interest in the child's activities by communicating with the school and seeking information concerning the child.
A parent who is seeking custody of a child must be able to outline a clear plan as to what arrangements will be made to care for that child, including financial preparedness, housing accommodations, appropriate school, extracurricular activities, after-school care, caregiver at home.
The parent who is seeking custody needs to be honest with himself or herself as to whether he or she is truly capable of caring for the child. The custody battle should not persist merely because one parent is trying to win. In that scenario, the child will be the ultimate loser.
Parents need to recognise when they need help. Custody matters usually arise after marriages and long-standing relationships have come to an end, and the need for parties to attend counselling is not readily acknowledged. Parents who receive counselling are usually better equipped to negotiate the terms of arrangements regarding their children.
There are many parents who have endured child-custody conflicts and, while it may not be wise to listen to advice from too many different sources, it may help to speak with someone who is wiser, who has already travelled along that road. That person may be able to provide emotional support and guidance.
People who are no longer in love with each other can still respect each other. No child will benefit from one parent being disrespectful to the other, and the parent who feels disrespected will definitely be less cooperative in discussions regarding the child.
The assistance that a trained neutral third party can provide to disputing parents through mediation is invaluable. Mediation should, therefore, be encouraged so that parents can be empowered to find solutions that work for them, rather than having a court impose orders on them. Care should be taken to ensure that the right mediator is chosen.
In the end, there is not a single solution that will work in all situations. However, it helps to be constantly reminded that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration in all child-custody cases.