Ex-Etiquette Column

Articles on dealing with the "ex" in your life--anyone's ex--yours, their's, even "ex"tended family.

Son’s Mother Says We Will Have to Change the Parenting Plan

Q. I have a job opportunity in another county that I am considering, but my son’s mother says we will have to change the parenting plan so that he can live with her during the school week. Although there will be an hour commute each way, I will be able to get my child to school and pick him up from the after school program. Why would we have to change the plan? What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. Because your son will be sitting in a car for an hour before school, and an hour after school while going to and from your home.  When he lives with you, all of his friends will be an hour away. If he participates in extra-curricular activities, say soccer, for instance, his practices and games will be an hour away. If he is ill and must go home from school when he is scheduled to be with you, his home will be an hour away. Therefore, if you must move, a change in parenting plan does seem like it is in the best interest of your child.

Although breaking up prompts parents to want to move farther from each other, if they are co-parenting, I often suggest they move closer. Many balk and think that’s ridiculous, but if you are making your decisions in the best interest of the kids, you live where it makes them most comfortable. If both parents live in the same school district the child can easily go between homes, attend the same school, participate in extra-curricular activities that require weekly practices and games. Mom or dad can be the coach—both parents can support the child equally. Live a distance away and even though you have equal custody on paper, the other parent will fill in when you can’t get there on time, will make sure the child gets to practices, finishes up projects, will interact with your child’s friends’ parents because they live in the neighborhood. As a result, she will “feel” like the primary parent. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle doing your best to be “equal.”

This is when I hear, “But I have to work! If I don’t I won’t be able to pay child support. Are the courts going to dock me time because I have to work?”That’s not the point. The courts don’t dock parents for working, but if you live an hour away you may not be able to have an equally shared parenting plan during the school year. To compensate, your child’s parenting plan may offer you more time in the Summer and Breaks—or start looking for another job near your child. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Ex-Etiquette®, runs in countless newspapers and websites all over the world. It is written by Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, and other Ex-etiquette books Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.

1 Response

  1. M

    Dr. Jann – I think your response to this parent is insensitive. While we don’t know where the writer lives, if they live in a rural area where there are few job opportunities, it could be that the parent that has to take another job may be facing a job loss due to a plant closure off where layoffs at the current company are imminent. If one parent has to move, it may mean that the moving parent may be able to provide a better opportunity to provide more opportunities to their job and if the moving parent is transferring to a location with a better school district that offers more in terms of educational and extracurricular opportunities, perhaps the moving parent has primary custody. This parent isn’t even suggesting that, however, that might be a better option. To suggest that the writer look for other work is quite frankly, a bit of a slap in the face – the writer may have tried for months or even years to find work where they wouldn’t have to make this choice. Life and co- parenting are about choices, but sometimes people are forced into choices they have to make for survival.

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