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Florida parents should not vie for "most popular" award

As parents prepare for divorce, there are a number of things that can be done to smooth the road ahead. Co-parenting will present a number of challenges, not the least of which is the reality that both parents will end up spending less time with their kids than they did while the marriage was intact. This can lead to a situation in which Florida parents feel as though they have to pander to the wishes of their kids while they have them, in order to maximize the impact that their parenting role will have. This is sometimes known as seeking the "most popular parent" award, and it is never a good idea.

Parenting requires setting boundaries and then enforcing those lines. The role of one's children is to test those boundaries, which results in learning where the lines fall and what happens if you break the established rules. When parents "bend" the rules to try and keep the peace during their parenting time, kids learn that they can work the system to their advantage. This is why a collaborative co-parenting approach is so important; it allows parents to set similar expectations within both homes so that the kids have a sense of stability and structure.

When it comes to custody changes, the wishes of a child play only a small role in the decision of the court. Therefore, trying to become the "favorite" parent will not yield a better outcome if the existing custody agreement is challenged. In fact, the court will look at the actions of both parents and how those choices meet the best interests of each child. If one parent is not maintaining an appropriate degree of discipline or is allowing a child to rule the roost, those choices can actually have a negative impact on the custody determination.

In the aftermath of a Florida divorce, it is natural to want to make the time spent with one's children enjoyable for all involved. Parents must remember, however, that their duties as parents remain in effect. These include setting boundaries and enforcing the rules, even if that means dealing with a sullen teenager all weekend. Trying to become the "favorite" parents can have negative outcomes for all involved.

Source: The Charlotte Observer, "Avoiding the "Most Popular Parent" contest in custody cases", Patra A. Sinner, April 6, 2016

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