For most of the last six years my son and I spent time together every other weekend and on Thursday evenings. Such arrangements are not uncommon for dads who do not live with the mother of their child. When your time with your kid is limited, you tend to pack as much as you can into what time you have, but it’s never really enough. There’s an urge to overcompensate with gifts or other things that aren’t allowed at the other house in an effort to be the favorite parent since you can’t be the parent with the most time. Soon you learn that it’s not a worthy battle and that such things aren’t fair to anyone. But regardless of what you do, you inevitably feel that you are less a part of your child’s life than you want to be.
The one thing that kept me sane through all of this was one simple line in my parenting plan. It was something that even the most contested of custody disputes would be hard pressed to exclude if you put it in. And it’s the thing that made the most difference during those times when I felt a disconnect between my son’s life and my own life:
“The child shall be allowed telephone contact with the parent with whom he is not residing (initiated by the parent with whom he is not residing or the child) at 9:00pm each night.”
This simple line meant that despite my lack of physical contact, I still got to talk to my son just about every day of his life one way or another. I was still a daily presence in his life.
Fathers have an uphill battle when it comes to getting custody, but even if you don’t win custody, you can still not completely lose. I know these calls mean just as much to my son as they do to me. By putting it in the Parenting Plan you make it so the other parent can’t prohibit the call without violating the Parenting Plan. I never really had to deal with that part, but it’s still a good thing to put in there. A child needs both of his parents. Always. This way even if you’re not there in person, you can still be there.
- Jack Cameron