Why Family Courts Should Not Order Equal Periods of Child Possession

As the old saying goes, “be careful for what you ask for.”

I’ve spent years complaining that our family court judges are out of touch with modern family life in their refusal to order equal periods of possession in child custody cases.  The rule at the courthouse has always been that no judge would order a 50-50 possession schedule on temporary order.  Instead, one parent was going to get the “primary” designation and the other was going to pay support.

How things change.

tug of warIn the past month, I’ve seen three family court judges order equal parenting time after a contested temporary orders hearing and, rumor has it, such rulings are becoming more common all the time.

Should we be happy?  Is this the age of judicial enlightenment we’ve all been waiting for?  One where everybody wins and children reap the benefits of living in two different but equally loving homes?

I think not.

At the courthouse, playing the equal possession card is simply Version 2.0 of the same game of spin, distortion and manipulation we’ve played for years.  Yes, there are millions of divorced parents, equally sharing parenting time and raising happy and emotionally healthy children.  However, the large majority of these parents figured it out on their own and agreed to the terms of their parenting plan outside court.

Divorce clients who end up at the courthouse do not have things figured out.  Instead, they are coming to court to get their way; to win; to punish; and to taunt.  They don’t, or won’t, communicate with one another.  Most disturbing, is that these parents simply do not respect the other person as being a competent parent.

Court-ordered equal parenting time puts children in a world of equal and opposite forces where resentment for the other parent is palpable.  As I say, it’s like the children live in America one week and China the next.  It is sad irony when family court judges order week-on, week-off possession and, in the same breath, order the parents to limit communications with the other to postings on a web-based portal.

It’s time for our court’s to stop, look and listen to what divorce and custody litigants are saying in court and doing to one another when nobody is looking.  True co-parenting is so much more than equalizing days of possession.  When parents are so mired in conflict that they are willing to advance their agenda by diminishing and demeaning the other in court, an award of equal parenting time will prolong, rather than eliminate, conflict.

… And it’s not in the best interest of the children.

Greg Housewirth,