Mommy Me Time

I am always amazed when people ask some variation of the question, “How can I enforce my ex takes visitation with our children?”

The short answer is you can’t. No judge is going to declare that the non-custodial parent MUST take their visitation. They only thing that MUST happen is that the custodial parent MUST have the child available for visitation.

Should you document when they don’t take their time? Well, of course.

Sam, are you telling me there is absolutely nothing that can be done when my ex won’t take the kids?

No, you can document the fact that the ex never takes their visitation, and then based off of that you can go back to court if you’re so inclined and a) attempt to get custody changed so that it matches on paper what you actually have, and b) have child support recalculated based upon the fact that you have the kids 90-100% of the time.

What really amazes me though are the ones that want to know if they can not only force the ex to take their visitation but also if they can make them pay for a babysitter if they don’t.

This question was posed not that long ago. Ex works out of town. Takes a new job in town and has the kids every other weekend. Ex finds out that working in town doesn’t make as much money as working out of town and he is behind on child support. So…. ex is back to working out of town, which means he is no longer taking the kids every other weekend. This is unfortunate because Mom has discovered she really likes her child free weekends. Mom wants to know if she can take him back to court to enforce visitation and if that isn’t a possibility then she’s wondering if she can have it ordered that he must pay for a babysitter on the weekends he’s supposed to have the kids. Or should she suck it up and just pay for a babysitter from the child support she receives?

Am I the only one that thinks this is lunacy, or am I simply a chump who continues to let people walk all over me? I can’t wrap my head around this.

We’ve already discussed the fact that visitation is only enforced one way. A parent cannot withhold visitation but the other parent does not have to take the visitation. If your ex insisted on 50/50 and now that they have it they only take 10% of it, sure, go back to court. Get custody changed. Get child support if you weren’t getting it based on the 50/50 arrangement, or get more if it was a low amount because of the 50/50 arrangement. But you can’t withhold the visitation, and you can’t make the other parent take it either. Period. This is the part where I tell you to suck it up, buttercup.

Who in the hell lied to you and told you that motherhood came with a vacation package? Did you get every other weekend off when you were married? Like, did your spouse take the child and you were able to just go and do whatever you wanted? Every. Other. Weekend? Did your spouse help out so much that you felt like you didn’t need a break? Or, is it more likely that you took care of everything when you were married and you didn’t blink an eye? Because, again, motherhood is not exactly known for its generous vacation time. But now that you’re divorced you think you should be entitled to have every other weekend free? And if that’s not a possibility then the ex should have to pay for a babysitter for you? Mind blown.

I am that parent that did 95% of it on my own when I was married! I did not have child free weekends every other week. I can probably count on one hand how many times I went away without my children. It would definitely not be more than 2 hands.

Sure, I knew people who got lots of breaks. My brother and his wife had a friend whose parents took her son every weekend. My mom took my brother’s kids for an entire month every summer. Jezebel didn’t spend more than 48 hours in a row with her kids. So I know it happens that some people luck out. I was not one of them. I was with my kids pretty much 24/7 and if I didn’t have them with me then I was the one arranging childcare for them.

And now as a divorced mom? I realize my kids were older when I separated and divorced but Jerry Lee has had them exactly 0 minutes since the day he walked out the door back in February of 2016. Yes, minutes. That’s not a typo. I didn’t mean to type days or weeks, or even hours. He’s had them 0 minutes.

Yes, they were older- 13 and 15- but Rock Star didn’t drive for the first 2 years of our separation, thanks to us having to move. I was still having to run her around. When she got a job I added that on to her regular rotation. Then I was working and running around for kids. Super fun! And also doing all the other parent type things- like going to open houses, buying school supplies, getting registered for new schools, throwing graduation parties, making doctor’s appointments and therapy appointments, etc. All by myself. No dad around to help. No babysitting allowance. 70/30 split on the medical. That was the extent of my additional help from Jerry Lee.

I’ve had help from my mom, yes. I’ve left for a weekend. Yep. My kids are older. I can do that. My brother steps in for my son on occasion and I appreciate that very much. He is able to get through to him in ways I can’t.

This is part of the reason I’m so passionate about building your own support system and not relying on the lying, cheating fuckwit. They tend to let you down a lot. If you can’t rely on family then reach out and build some friendships.

As for thinking you’re going to get a judge to order the non-custodial parent to pay for a babysitter because you want to go out? Good luck with that. Hell, who knows? Maybe it’ll fly. I doubt it but what have you got to lose aside from a few thousand dollars when you go back to court? I’m not saying a parent doesn’t need or doesn’t deserve some time to themselves. Of course, they do. But reality is a bitch. Instead of wasting your time and money going back to court to try to force the other parent to cover your babysitting bills so you can have a night on the town just use the damn child support and pay a babysitter.

Remember that old adage: You can only control yourself. It’s useful in this case as well. Accept the fact that you are the sane and responsible parent and the other person isn’t. Once you accept it instead of railing against the unjustness of being on call 24/7 you can take measures to get the help you need- from your own support system instead of a fuckwit. Life is so much easier when you drop the rope and make arrangements on your own.

Disclaimer: I don’t want anyone thinking I was never away from my children for even a moment. I put them in the nursery while I went to church. I took Picasso to Mother’s Day Out for a couple of hours one day each week. I went to MOPS groups and childcare was provided there. I managed to take a couple of cake decorating classes and left them with Jerry Lee. Jerry Lee and I took some ballroom and swing dance lessons and we had a babysitter for Rock Star (Picasso wasn’t born yet). When we looked at houses in Michigan we left Rock Star with my mom. We left both kids with Jerry Lee’s parents when we looked at houses in Utah. My brother watched them along with his own two when I threw myself a birthday party. I’ve already written about the Women’s Retreat I took and all the travel that involved. I actually had a sleepover one night with a couple of new mom friends I had met when we moved to Michigan. We spent the night at a hotel away from kids. And eventually as they got older they would go on playdates or spend the night with friends. Obviously this isn’t a comprehensive list of all of the times I was without my children (probably a lot closer to it than I’d like to admit…). So, I was without my children at times, but I certainly did not have child free weekends on a regular basis.

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