When it comes to parenting, we dads tend to be underestimated. People assume that a child’s mother is the primary parent and that the dad simply pitches in every so often. That perception is even stronger in joint custody families when the kids spend most of their time living with your ex.
No matter who thinks what, one fact is certain: Father’s Day is your day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate your relationship with your kids. Of course, that’s hard to do if you don’t have the kids with you for the holiday.
How does joint custody work when Father’s Day isn’t supposed to be your day? Before I delve into that topic, you need to find out whether Father’s Day is already one of your days with the kids.
How to Know if You Have Your Kids for Father’s Day
Unless specified otherwise, Father’s Day is just like any other Sunday in your parenting plan. If you’re already supposed to have the kids on that day, you’re in luck.
It’s also a good idea to check your parenting plan. Most families make special agreements for holidays, and that may include Father’s Day.
If following your parenting plan would mean your kids would be with your ex for Father’s Day, hope isn’t lost. You can work it out with your ex to celebrate Father’s Day the right way.
What to Do if You Want to Have Your Kids for Father’s Day
Let’s say Father’s Day this year doesn’t fall on a day when you’d normally have the kids. Use these tips as your next steps.
1. Open a Negotiation
If you want to change your custody schedule with your ex, it’s all a negotiation. Start early, at least a few weeks in advance, so you have time to come to an agreement. If you live in a different state and your kids will need travel arrangements, start the discussion earlier.
The best way to approach the discussion is as an even exchange. Offer to swap with your ex so you can have the kids on Father’s Day and then can have them for another day that they normally wouldn’t.
2. Use Written Communication
This is critical in any co-parenting situation, no matter how you relate to your ex. Even for minor details, always use written communication like texts or emails.
There are several reasons for this. First, it puts your agreement in writing. If your ex tries to back out later or says they don’t remember, you have it in black and white.
The second advantage is that with written communication, there is no face-to-face or vocal communication. The more removed the conversation is, the less likely you are to get into an argument.
Finally, written communication gives you a chance to think through your words before you respond. Is that swap your ex is offering really fair? If they’re trying to bait you into a fight, how can you word your response to stay calm and mature?
3. Get Your Attorney’s Input
You don’t need to lose your family law attorney’s number when your custody arrangement is signed. They should be available as an ongoing resource you can turn to when new issues arise. I can all but promise you that in co-parenting, there will be new issues that come up.
Check in with your attorney about your Father’s Day arrangement. Before texting your ex about it, send the text to your attorney to see if they think you should change the wording. They can give you other tips for handling the situation in a way that maintains your legal integrity.
4. Consider a Long-Term Father’s Day Agreement
No one wants to ask their ex for a favor every year to spend Father’s Day with their kids. Instead, consider asking your ex to amend your parenting plan so that you always have the kids for Father’s Day.
This will cut down on long-term drama and stress. A word, of caution, though: a few weeks before Father’s Day is not the time to start this process.
You can all but guarantee that the change won’t be in place before the upcoming Father’s Day. You could make your ex angry in the process, so they might deny you the ability to have this Father’s Day with the kids.
Instead, negotiate a one-time swap for the upcoming Father’s Day. Then wait until the holiday has passed before you take action toward changing the parenting plan.
Every state’s process for changing a parenting plan is unique. Speak with your family law attorney to see how to move forward. It may require a formal request for a custody modification.
5. Plan Your Special Day
Let’s assume you work things out with your ex so the kids are with you for Father’s Day. You want to make the most of the special day, especially if you aren’t sure you’ll have future Father’s Days together.
Plan something to do for the day with your kids. Take them out to an amusement park, a movie, a fun restaurant, you name it. Make it a fun day for you all to spend together.
6. Have Realistic Expectations
As important as it is to plan your Father’s Day, you can’t go overboard. Don’t assume it will be a magical, flawless day that your kids will cherish forever.
Your kids are still kids. They might be cranky or they may have a last-minute school project they need to finish. Prepare yourself to roll with the punches and make the most out of anything that comes your way.
Your realistic expectations apply to Father’s Day gifts and cards, too. Don’t assume your ex will take the high road and help the kids get a gift for you. If they don’t, realize that it isn’t a reflection of how much your kids love you.
How Does Joint Custody Work in Difficult Situations?
In most divorced couples, negotiating for the father to have the kids on Father’s Day is a no-brainer. You are the kids’ father, after all, so it only makes sense. There are some situations that are more complicated, though.
What if You’re One of Two Fathers?
Without a doubt, negotiating Father’s Day custody is more difficult if your ex is also your children’s father. You can assume that he wants to spend Father’s Day with them as much as you do.
In these cases, it’s often best to trade off. Perhaps you’ll have the kids this year, then your ex will have them next year, and it goes back and forth.
There’s also the option for both of you to celebrate Father’s Day with the kids if you’re on good terms. If you try this, lay out ground rules in advance about having a joyful, conflict-free day.
What if Your Kids Have a Stepfather?
If your ex is married or committed to a new man, he may take on a fatherly role for your kids. That’s all fine and dandy unless he’s trying to push you out in the process.
If the stepfather wants to have Father’s Day with the kids, explain calmly and clearly that this is important to you. Remind him that you’re the kids’ father so this should be a special day between you and the kids.
It may help to come up with a different day that the kids can celebrate their stepfather. Talk to him about making up your own Stepfather’s Day for the kids to celebrate with him.
What if Your Ex Won’t Agree to a Swap?
The reality is that as hard as you try, you’re at the mercy of whether your co-parent agrees to a swap for Father’s Day. If they don’t, you can still make your own Father’s Day.
Simply tell the kids you’re rescheduling Father’s Day this year for a day when they’re supposed to be with you. Show them your excitement and tell them it’ll be a special day between you.
As angry and hurt as you may be by your ex’s actions, remember to never speak about it to your kids. If you badmouth your ex, you put yourself at risk for being accused of alienating them. That will hurt you in future parenting plan negotiations.
More importantly, though, you’re hurting your kids’ precious relationship with their other parent.
If you do need to “reschedule” Father’s Day, it doesn’t mean you have to cross off that original day on the calendar. While your kids are with your ex, use it as a day to celebrate you. Take the day off from housework and do something you enjoy.
Dealing with Joint Custody on Father’s Day
Whether you’ve been separated for a year or a decade, co-parenting can be complicated. Simple questions like “how does joint custody work on Father’s Day?” aren’t always simple.
With this guide, you can make sure Father’s Day remains a special day your kids look forward to every year. They won’t mind if you have to tweak the schedule.
For more co-parenting tips, check out more 2houses blogs.