Friday, January 11, 2013

Co-parenting Children - fathers are important too!

The following is taken from an article I saw many years ago -- hopefully it will give you some points to ponder regarding co-parenting your children...

The relationship between children and their parents will define a child's life. Separated or divorced parents of children must face this reality and cooperate for the benefit of their child.

The traditional family setting is no longer the norm for children. There has been a significant increase in divorce and in the birth rate of children to single mothers in Texas. There are fathers for these children -- where are they in the conversation?

How do we, as a community, encourage single fathers to become active, visible and responsible co-parents to their children?

We celebrate the birth of a child and provide significant supports to mothers -- in the beginning. Single mothers are entitled to education and financial support to assist them in bringing a healthy child into the world. Single fathers have little parenting education or support and there is little focus on their parental preparation.

The same is true of fathers who take responsibility for their children but, due to separation or divorce, are not involved in their child's life. Although they pay child support, there is little interaction in the life of their child.

There are many reasons for this. Many times, the fathers withdraw from the failed relationship and from the lives of the children. Or, perhaps the custodial parent evades court-ordered possession schedules and restricts the father's access to the child. Or the father has no desire to participate.
No matter the reason for the father's absence, there is one reality -- the child will suffer. A child has a right to a relationship with both parents, whether or not the parents care for one another. While we can't force a father to participate, we can provide support to those who wish to do so.

While celebrating the accomplishment of the single mother, we do little to encourage the single father's participation in the life of a child. Schools make it difficult for non-custodial parents to exercise court-ordered rights to participate in educational decisions and activities. Medical providers hesitate to provide information to non-custodial parents. And resources to enforce access and possession schedules to low-income non-custodial parents are limited.

Most parent-child court orders provide for frequent and continuing contact with children born of the relationship. While the Texas Family Code's standard possession schedule is the norm, there are variations -- for children under 3 years, specialized schedules for non-traditional work schedules and supervised visitation where there has been domestic violence or long-term absence from the child's life.

One thing is certain -- the rights of non-custodial parents are enforceable and should be honored by our community. When a parent is given court-ordered parenting time and takes up the responsibilities of being a parent, those court orders must be honored by the custodial parent.

If the custodial parent is concerned for the child's safety, then the possession order should be modified by the court. However it is the responsibility of the custodial parent to take the steps to return to court to do so; court-ordered possession cannot be ignored.

The up-side of this is the potential impact on the child's life -- a good relationship with both parents can have a lasting positive effect. If we believe in our children and want what is best for them, we will begin to honor their fathers -- even if they live under separate roofs.

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