Splitsville: How To Successfully Keep Your Ex In Check

Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.

The custody battle is really at the center of almost all the tensions between separated, divorced or never-married parents. The day-to-day things might be obnoxious or eye-roll-inducing, but we can mostly get past those. It’s when it comes to time and money that the situation becomes complicated.

I thing that’s why single parents live in constant fear of going back to court. I’ve already admitted that I keep some serious records merely on the off-chance that I find myself in the family court system, although my daughter’s father and I have a really good relationship and are pretty committed to working together. I basically see my notes as a “Just in case” type of back-up plan.

But some parents are just figuring out their single-parent-system. One of our readers emailed me with a question about record-keeping and what type of information will help, should you ever find yourself in the middle of a custody battle. She writes:

Hello! I’m 24 and have a 2 year old with a guy I have never been married to. I am starting to keep diligent records at the moment but not sure of the best way to keep those records. I have a notebook that I am starting to write everything down in but I’m not sure if that’s the best way to do that. Also he lives with his grandparents which are the people I trust and always leave her with so I’m not always certain about his interactions with her. Any advice? Thanks!

So, let’s see if we can’t give this reader some insight on the oh-so-fun world of parenting records. (Okay, it’s not the funnest thing ever. But it’s important. So here we go.)

First, here are the types of information I keep. Instead of a notebook, I buy a yearly calendar that lets me keep all my notes organized by dates. Here’s the information I try to put in.

  • Time. First and foremost, you want a record of all visitation. Also mark down if something was scheduled but your ex didn’t show up. Months later, it’s easy to think “Did we see him every other week or every three weeks?” Sometimes, the time between visits can really stretch out and you don’t pay much attention, especially if the schedule is sporadic. Also, child support always considers the amount of time spent with each parent, so it could make a big different to know that your little one spent 10 instead 20 nights with their other parent.
  • Health. I’m actually not even sure if this has any bearings on the court, but it helps to note when your little one is sick. A friend of saw that her son had a cough for a few days after every visit to his dad. Turns out, the dad’s new girlfriend smoked around the child. He was reacting to smoke. These are the types of issues you want to catch quickly. So I recommended making a note of health issues in your planner.
  • Money. You should be keeping track of every child support payment, or additional expensive items bought by your ex. This helps everyone involved. I’ve had a lot of success keeping child support in a separate account. Our plan is to use the account as college savings, but if I need to use the money for something like extra school clothes or a summer camp, I give my ex a head’s up. Every time I’ve done this, he’s told me it’s not necessary. But it makes me feel better about it. And if you keep these kinds of records, no one can ever question where the money is being spent.
  • Child’s reaction. Positives too! It might help you to make a note about your little one’s reactions. A two-year-old can hopefully start communicating their feelings about visiting daddy. This way, you can help your ex learn what your child hopes to get from the visits and you’ll know if a problem is starting. For example, my ex always sends toys home that he buys our daughter, because he figures that she’ll get to play with them more here. It’s a really kind thought, but our little girl was frustrated that he didn’t have toys at his house. We realize that some things needed to stay there so that she had entertaining activities when she visited as well.

Last and probably hardest to address is your worry that you can’t really say how he interacts with your daughter because his grandparents handle a lot of the care. My actual advice on this part is that you don’t get to nitpick or worry about how he handles as your little one, as long as they come home healthy. You have to trust your ex as a parent.

I think that’s the hardest part about visitation, is that we worry about our kids when they’re out of our sight. But we have to give up control. We can’t micromanage or dictate what happened when we aren’t around. That’s your ex’s time to parent as he sees fit. I think the good news that you trust his grandparents and you know they’ll help when necessary. Now, you just have to learn to trust your ex, because that’s just as important as keeping detailed records.

Good luck!

And leave your suggestions for our reader in the comments.

(Photo: jayfish/Shutterstock)

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