According to one study by Pew Research Center, fewer than a quarter of fathers who do not live with their children see them more often than once per week. While it is still more common in divorces for mothers to get physical custody and for fathers to have visitation rights, both mothers and fathers who are not the custodial parent may have limited time with their children.
Under Pennsylvania law, “partial physical custody” refers to what some parents might think of as visitation rights. A parent who has partial physical custody has less than a majority of time with the child. The parent who is granted partial physical custody after a divorce may be concerned about maintaining a relationship with the child. However, having less time with the child does not necessarily mean that the relationship between parent and child has to suffer.
There are a number of reasons parents might arrive at a custody agreement that involves one having partial physical custody instead of shared physical custody. If the divorce was through a process of collaborative law, both parents may have reached the conclusion that this arrangement would be in the best interests of the child. For example, one parent may have already been the child’s primary caregiver while the other parent might have worked long hours. Although the arrangement may be difficult for the parent with partial physical custody, that parent might also agree that a custody battle would not serve the child’s best interests.
Best Practices for Making Co-parenting Work
Some of the guidelines for building and maintaining a good relationship with the child are no different from what they might be if the parents shared physical custody. For example, parents should try to work out an agreement with one another that includes consistent rules between households. They should not involve children in their disputes, question the child about the other parent, or badmouth the other parent in front of the child. Instead, each parent should encourage the other’s relationship with the child.
However, a parent with partial custody might face additional challenges that a parent with shared custody might not. The parent may only have alternate weekends and perhaps one weeknight per week with the child. This could cause both parent and child to feel as though the parent is losing touch with the day-to-day aspects of the child’s life.
Tips for the Parent With Partial Physical Custody
Of course, there is no such thing as an actual “part-time parent.” You are always a parent even when you are not physically with your child, but if you are concerned about the quality of your parent-child relationship, these guidelines can help.
- Be on time. It seems obvious, but failing to keep to schedules is an ongoing issue in many post-divorce parenting relationships. Your reliability shows your child that you care.
- Don’t always aim to be the “fun” parent. In an effort to make sure your limited time with your child is quality, you might want to plan a special fun activity for every visit. However, the steady, routine activities are just as important: homework help, making dinner, talking about the school day.
- Show up. This is important not just for scheduled visitation times, but also for games or performances your child is in, parent/teacher meetings, and medical appointments. Look into revising your custody agreement if you are being shut out of these activities.
The Challenge of Blended Families
If you remarry and have more children, it is important that the children from your previous relationship do not feel that they are being erased. This is particularly important if you only have partial custody. There are a few ways to help ensure that this is not the case.
- Make sure you set aside individual time to spend with your children from the previous relationship.
- Do not treat your children from the previous marriage differently than the children from your present marriage. Be sure your current spouse is on board with this as well.
- Work on creating new family traditions that involve all of you.
If you are headed into a divorce and you have children, you may feel anxious about their well-being and what custody arrangements are going to look like. You can contact us at the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner & Associates in Philadelphia at 215-886-1266 for a consultation.