Sometimes just being an ordinary, sit-on-the-sideline, watching-what-happens type of parent doesn't cut it when your kids are at stake in a custody battle. My colleagues and I entertain the question almost every day from parents seeking to "win" rights and/or time with their kids. These are parents who usually are decent, law-abiding, and well-tempered clients who want to be more involved in their children's lives. They have good intentions and aspirations of being elite parents.
I find it admirable when parents step up their game to be better parents for their kids. Unfortunately, many of the parents we see in Court, either seeking to maintain their current rights or trying to increase their possession and access with their children, do not have a clue what that looks like.
Here's an example. Dad has always been around for his children while exercising his 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends under the standard possession order. He now wants to develop a better and deeper relationship with them. So he hires an attorney to file a modification asking the Court to give him an expanded standard possession order with overnights for Thursday and Sunday nights. After all he is entitled to be a better dad, right?
Regrettably, he shows up to the temporary orders hearing and gets stumped on several questions that he did not anticipate. Opposing counsel asks, "Sir, please tell the Court the names of your kids' current teachers." Dad states that he doesn't know. "What's their pediatrician's name?" asks the lawyer. Dad once again says, "Uhhh, I don't know."
Opposing counsel continues, "Well, then, can you tell the Court any of their teachers from last year?" Dad just looks perplexed and states, "I used to know them. . . ."
"What about your daughter's dance teacher?" the lawyer asks, now with exasperation and disdain in his delivery of the question. "Uhmmm, I'm not quite sure," Dad finally gets out. Do you see where I'm going with this? That's right-Dad is a typical sit-on-the-sideline, watching-what-happens type of parent who fails at his expensive quest to have more time with his kids. He may genuinely want more time with his kids, but what has he done to show the Court he really wants it?
Here's what I would challenge every parent to do, whether you seek a change in custody or possession, or you just want to get in the game and stop sitting on the sideline: JOIN YOUR KIDS' SCHOOL PTA AND VOLUNTEER TO HELP WITH THEIR ACTIVITIES!
What's that you say? Ridiculous? Absurd? Preposterous? Well the fact is, I AM NOT YOUR ORDINARY PTA MOM! But I am my kids' school PTA President! You read that right, and it is the truth. I am the President of the W.S. Ryan Wrangler PTA. Admittedly, I am not in a custody battle or seeking additional court-ordered time with my children. But if I was, I could tell you the name of every teacher my kids have had since they started school. I could even tell you the name of their friends' teachers over the past few years.
Of course, you're too busy with work and other things, is that right? Nonsense! You have the time to get to know the teachers of your children. You have the time to volunteer to help out with a fall festival or bake sale. I am a PTA Dad, and I'm proud of it! Yes, it takes more time. And yes, it is sometimes a pain in the neck. But I guarantee you, if you want to make a better showing about how you're involved in your little one's life, get involved at the school level. Then, when you're asked those pesky questions, like "Who is the principal at your kids' school?" You'll know.
And maybe you'll get that extra time with your kids after all.