[G]etting divorced with kids is usually a sad state of affairs. Who should be the primary custodian if all things are equal in a divorce? Left up to the courts, there is really no such thing as shared equal custody. And in my opinion, equal custody isn’t a practical or logistical solution anyway.
Judges and case workers tend to agree, as they FOCUS on trying to figure out what is in the best interest of the children, which most of the time is answering “Who is the better parent?”
Who is the Better Parent in a Happily Married Family?
Before answering who a better parent in a custody situation, let’s examine happily married couples with kids. I’ll start with myself and my wife, Karen aka SuperParentMom. I consider myself a very involved, super dad who makes time and a priorities for my children. However, if I gather a group of mutual friends together and asked them, “Who is the better parent?” They would say “Karen.” If I asked why, here is what they would say…
Your wife Karen, is one of the smartest educators we know. It is clear she is one of the best stay-at-home moms around. Being a former elementary school teacher and team lead, has empowered your kids with so many life skills. It is without question why your children are smart, gifted and talented.
My oldest son speaks four languages, and my youngest son, is an avid reader even before Kindergarten. My wife, is not only a stay-a-home-mom, every moment she is awake with the kids, is an educated learning experience. Her education, time, experience, and abilities, even out shine a super custodial dad like me.
In this single comparison, I would even agree with my friends, Karen is the better parent. (FYI, if we were going through a divorce, I would concede and insist that she be the custodial parent.)
Now take this example. This family has one son and they both work. The dad tends to be more structured, teaching their son probably more than the mom. The father is the one who puts the child to bed most nights, takes him to the doctor, and basically handles most of the “hard parenting.” If you were to quiz the mom, she would say without fault or reason, “Oh yea, my husband is by far, the better parent.”
So If Custody Should Go to “the Better Parent,” What Exactly Makes One?
So through the backdrop of my above family examples, who are the better parent in a divorcing family? I think it starts with the same premise but grows into who can be the most objective, fair, and exhibits no animosity.
1. Who has the most time available to parent? In pure available hours during the day, who has the most time to take care of the kids now, and in the future? If Sally needed to be at band practice at 2:30p with no notice, which parent is flexible to accommodate that need? If Johnny has the measles and had to be quarantined at home for the next 10 days, which parent would take care of him? FYI, this parent could NOT call a friend, their parents, or a babysitter. That doesn’t qualify having the most time available.
2. Who is most educated to assist the child in learning? If Johnny really has a chance to play professional football, and the father is a former player with available coaching time, which parent is best for Johnny? Even if mom hold a doctor’s degree in education, shouldn’t Johnny probably be with dad?
3. Who is the most stable now and in the future? What if dad has lived in the same house for 20 years, serves on the district’s school board, and has never even changed his changed his cell phone number since Reagan was president? Verses mom who has moved apartments, houses, and boyfriends more than 20 times. And some of those moves were hours away. Who would you pick in this situation?
4. Who shows the least animosity towards the other parent? Animosity comes in more flavors than just “bad mouthing” the other parent. Which by the way, is ALWAYS bad and should NEVER be done under any circumstances, not even on Facebook. Animosity can also show up in smaller more subtle ways. Who followers the court order? Who is more on time for pickups and drop-offs? Who helps with homework and strives not to be the Disneyland parent? Who is more cordial in the worst of times with the Ex? Who pays and uses their child support correctly? Which parent shows the least animosity?
5. Which parent parents? So many divorce cases end up with a parenting parent, and a Disneyland parent. Who is the real parent? Who invokes structure more? Which parent has more of a routine? Who says “no” on behalf of good parenting, instead of just being the “fun” parent?
6. Which parent exhibits all five of these qualities more than the other? You may be reading this and can zero in on one or two of these points. But from a judge’s or caseworker’s perspective, who exhibits the more qualities than the other? Who is the better parent?
Being the Better Parent is the Only Reason to Have Custody
[tweet “If you want to be the custodial parent, you need to BE the better parent.”]
You must be honest with yourself in this personal assessment. There is good news in working through this exercise. You can change! You can work on becoming more of the better parent your kids need you to be. As I look back on the last 17 years, I realize that I have become a much, much, better parent than I would have been without the custody process.
Change for the better. Learn to BE the better parent!
What makes you the better parent? Do you think custody should go to the better parent?
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