This scenario is all too common in Florida: During a prolonged separation and/or divorce, one parent manages to keep the children away from the other parent. Even if no outright alienation occurs, the consequences of such moves can be long-reaching.
You are far from alone if you have been awarded visitation or some type of custody and feel overwhelmed about the prospect of getting to know your children again. Here are some tips to help you through the process.
1. Remember the big picture, and understand your importance.
You are your children's father, and your presence in their lives can positively affect their well-being in many ways. You are in a position to contribute to their school achievement, financial well-being and language development , for example. Your children need you, so while the many day-to-day obstacles are frustrating, look down the road at the big picture.
2. Maintain civil ties with the other parent.
It is imperative to remain on polite terms with your children's mother or other father. No matter how much anger or frustration you feel toward this person or how badly he or she treats you, it does the children no good to see you go off on emotional tangents. Prepare answers for questions such as, "Why doesn't Mommy like you anymore?" and "Why didn't Mommy want us to see you?"
3. Involve a counselor.
Counseling for yourself and for yourself with your children can be huge. Your children may need individual sessions as well, and it is often helpful for both parents to attend counseling. Therapy can help your family learn how to resolve conflicts better, and could probably prevent problems before they happen.
4. Allot personal time for yourself.
Making time and space for yourself is imperative-challenging, too, among possibly driving long distances to see your children, attending counseling sessions and much more. However, tracking your time can help you identify 30 minutes here and there when you might be able to take a walk. Even five minutes is enough time for a quick stroll to catch your breath.
5. Assert yourself.
Assert your rights under the parenting plan you drew up with your children's other parent. Move as quickly as possible if you have reason to believe the parent intends to interfere with your involvement in the children's lives.
Florida law presumes that fathers should have equal time with their children. If you are a father who feels that you deserve more involvement with your children's lives, consulting with an attorney can be helpful.