Q My husband and I are trying to mediate our separation agreement. We’re stuck on the summer parenting of our three teenage children. One child is away at college. The other two are at a private boarding school. So they’ll all be home for the summer.
My husband wants to have the children with him for half of each summer. But, because he’s always on the go with his girlfriend, I’m concerned he’ll leave the children alone at which point they might hold a party, drink alcohol, have friends sleep over, etc.
My husband believes I’ve raised this issue because I’m jealous of his new relationship and that I want to keep tabs on him. Actually, insofar as his female friend is concerned, she is more than welcome to him!
I’ve asked that, when he or his girlfriend are not at his home during his parenting time, the children come to stay at my home.
What do you suggest?
A While understanding and accepting your concerns at face value, all things being equal a judge will probably find it is in the children’s best interests to spend half the summer with each parent. So the two of you could agree on alternating weeks, alternating two-weeks, each having two four-week segments, etc.
Based on what you wrote, I’d guess he’d not agree to the children staying with you for the summer, with his having two or three weeks when he and his female friend want to take them on a trip or have them at his house.
At this age, the friends are more important to and have more influence on your children than their parents. So you need to have each child meet with you and your husband. The three of you need to develop a list of punishments to be imposed if they drank booze, partied, etc. when their then caregiver was away. A first offense would result in no cell or media use, or no car use for a week. A second offense would mean a two-week loss of those things.
If your husband won’t agree, then it’s far better to agree with him than to force a trial. But add that, when either of you travel during your parenting time, each must give the other advance notice. Then, during that trip, the children will then live in the other’s home and neither can recapture parenting time given up while travelling.
Of course, at this age, caring for children can be like running a hotel. You provide each child with food, clothing, a roof over their head, washing their clothing, cleaning their rooms, provide spending money, a car filled with gasoline, etc.
So as Coach Belichick says: “Do your job”. And hope that they won’t be harmed from a fall which occurs after stepping into a garbage-filled bucket.
If they reach age 25, they’ll appreciate what you did for them. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath.