While scanning the Internet the other day, I ran across an interesting article in “The Australian”. I don't remember how I got there, but it was fun reading about what was going on in Australia in the realm of family law. While I don't have all the context of Australian law, it is apparent that some revision of their family law statutes is being considered. The article mentioned what they referred to as the “friendly parent provision”. It appears that judges in Australia will consider, in making a custody decision, whether each parent has been cooperative or “friendly” with the other parent. An uncooperative, unfriendly parent apparently will be at a disadvantage in a custody fight.
While Texas and probably all other American states don't explicitly list that as a statutory factor to be considered in a custody fight, being a friendly parent certainly is an important component to be considered. It is clearly a factor considered by many judges and I have seen it have a major effect on custody decisions.
Why Being a Friendly Parent is Important
It can help minimize stress for both parties and the children. Naturally, the less fighting there is, the less stressful the situation will be. Even if the parties disagree about some things, they can do so respectfully and at appropriate times and places. They can still make changes in their schedules with the kids and share information about school and the kids' activities, even if there are some underlying tensions. Kids don't need to participate in or observe their parents' disagreements.
Parents can teach kids how to behave as adults by modeling good behavior with each other. There will always be some disagreements between parents and kids, and parents need to be able to count on each other and work together to provide a safe and secure environment for their kids.
Cooperative parents can maximize their “quality” time with their kids. Instead of fighting over turf or trying to be inflexible to maintain control over the situation, parents can arrange to adapt their times with the kids to meet work, travel and family schedules. If a parent must work on a weekend, it makes sense to trade that time for other time when the parent will be available to be with the kids. Everybody has conflicts from time to time that can't be avoided. Being flexible with the other parent will create goodwill, future time trades and better times with the kids.
How Can You be a Friendly Parent?
Be willing to changes schedules. Be flexible. Don't just insist on following the rigid court order.
Don't keep strict score of who has the most time with the kids. Recognize that not all time is equally valuable. Make sure that the kids have valuable time with each parent.
Figure out what the kids really want or would want. Keep their best interests in the forefront.
It looks like we could learn a lot from our friends in Australia. Being a friendly parent will pay dividends, not just in “winning” custody, but in raising children in the best possible environment.