SingleDad.com is a resource for all fatherhood information. Co-parenting and joint custody is a challenge for every newly divorced or re-married father. RJ Jaramillo shares his experiences and gives advice to single dads.
It’s hard not to experience anger when you mention the words divorce and child custody in the same sentence in front of single parents. Too many of us have been through it and are familiar with the trials and tribulations of family law. The stages and processes that most of us go through just to see our children is downright humiliating. Couple that with the fact that most divorces end at the height of emotional stress, and it seems next to impossible to negotiate for more time to see our children. Every state has different child custody procedures, but most of them favor the mother when it comes to custody and visitation time. But there is good news, we may not be able to change our court documents or our final divorce decree, but we can gain more time with our children.
Based on my own learning experiences, the best child custody advice I can give any single dad is to follow these three easy steps:
1. Be Available
In the beginning, you may experience a battleground filled with multiple copies of your final divorce decree and the "weekly quoting" of the final court judgment to your ex-spouse. Do everything you can to avoid conflict. Conflict is like diaper rash. It spreads out of control and is sometimes contagious. In the long run, you will never win the battle if you allow anger to cloud the process. Save your energy and always be available to pick up any additional time with your children and offer more time to your ex-spouse. Get in the routine of sending a weekly e-mail to your ex-spouse and offer to cover for her if she needs personal or work time away from your children. Be a diplomat and be polite. The result will usually be positive.
2. Be Patient
It takes time to develop this new relationship with your ex-spouse. You have to remember that she has control and probably the majority of child custody. It’s your job to be patient and consistent with your behavior. It’s not going to happen overnight, just like your divorce didn’t happen overnight. Don’t be hard on yourself or expect immediate results. It took me over a year to see a positive change in my custody schedule because it took me over a year to be consistent in my behavior and attitude with my ex-spouse.
3. Don’t Get Your Children Involved
So many times I see and hear newly divorced couples sharing every detail about their divorce with their children. It is important to keep our children away from the drama. There is nothing worse than sharing one side of the story and giving the child an angry and hurtful impression of the other parent. Just remember, our children did not choose the divorce. Our children did not ask to choose sides. So many times I see how our children are acutely aware of one side of the story. This hurts the long term health of the family. If your child confronts you with an angry or false story about you, just be calm; reassure your child and say, "How do you feel about this?" Listen to their answer and remind them that their mother and father both love them very much. This is a new stage in everyone’s life, and you will always love their mother for bringing them into this world.
Remember the Calendar:
There are only 365 days in the year, and to a newly divorced father, every day needs to count. Most courts recognize major holidays and seasonal events, and try to share them equally between both parties. But they do not account for the personal ones that matter just as much.
When you divide a year in half, it’s only 182.5 days and nights. There are special moments that you cannot get back. Just the simple act of saying "Good night, I love you" in person is limited to half the year. There are holidays and family events that are not detailed on the final divorce decrees. There are only so many baby teeth that pop out when your child is with you. There are only so many breakfast, lunch and family dinner moments that you have with your children. Sports, school, community and social activities that fall in or out of your custody schedule are painful reminders of how valuable time is as active parents.
When we put these events in perspective and we realize how much the clock is working against us, we soon realize the importance of being present in our children’s lives and how the little things matter so much more. Mapping out the year is a great exercise to share with your children so they can see and feel the importance of the year with their parent, (also a great idea to map out family vacations). I found that this exercise was very valuable in giving my youngest daughter valuable information about her relationship with me. She had to see something different than what she had felt. She once told me that I didn’t want to see her as much as her mother did. When I asked her why she felt that way, she merely said that she felt that she didn’t see me as much as her mother. So, instead of arguing the point and discussing the current family law document and the details to my divorce decree, I bought her a calendar.
We sat together and we marked each day with a marker. This included the days she was with dad and the days she was with mom. We covered every week, every month and the entire year. Something just clicked that moment and I could tell there was a different attitude about her. I don’t know if it was the ability to see the "Dad days", or the fact that we sat down together and addressed her feelings. All I know is that I saw a more confident and secure little girl. Maybe she just needed to know where she was going and what her environment was going to look like. Whatever it was, it worked.
I think having a calendar in all of my children’s’ rooms gives them the same ability to plan special events with me. They can schedule their own "Daddy Dates" to spend some one-on- one time with me. I feel that having the same calendar in my room makes me value the quality of time I want to spend with all three of my children. I never take it for granted anymore. These are the best years of my life and I am enjoying my time with all three of them to the fullest.
Want to see RJ’s Co-Parenting Schedule? email him
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”