Sharing Child Custody Fairly during a Difficult Divorce

Lidia Korinko
Unhappy little child hug leaving parent say goodbyeBy fizkes, Adobe Stock

Going through a divorce was one of the most challenging times in my life. Emotions were high on both sides, and it was difficult to get past "he did this, and she did that." It was painful; it was heartbreaking, it was devastating. Even though I instigated the divorce, I was still devastated because I thought we would be together forever. I tried everything that I could think of to make the marriage work. It came down to the fact that he couldn't stop treating me horribly (he was verbally abusive). I used to tell him, "Don't let losing our marriage be the way that you learn your lesson," but he saw all our problems as my fault and felt justified in how he treated me. Ironically, he didn't want the outcome to be divorce either. I guess that he couldn't help himself at the time.

I was always so scared and nervous whenever we had to go to court. I wish I hadn't been so frightened in hindsight. It seemed like a total scam. The attorneys are the only ones who made out financially.

You will be surprised to learn that regardless of what was going on between us, we did NOT fight over our children and did not use them against each other. Well, except that my ex-husband did badmouth me, to our children, a lot. I never did, even though I wanted to. Sure, I thought that my ex wasn't the best father. Initially, he missed picking them up on his weekends a few times when we split up. And he had a bad temper which I felt was usually unsubstantiated—for example, getting upset over spilled milk, literally. He could be hard on the kids, but he was never verbally abusive to them like he was to me. He also never hit them. I rationalized not keeping the kids from him because God made him their father, and he wasn't breaking any laws or doing anything that would require a visit from Child Protective Services. So who was I to keep the kids away from him? But, of course, I would think about how much better my life would be if he weren't even in the picture. Especially once I met the man who would become my new husband.

It's been 26 years since our divorce. Our children, two sons, are now in their late 20's. Looking back, I wish that we weren't so stupid during our divorce and the years following when we were raising our children.

We both automatically agreed to joint custody with 50/50 visitation. I hate that it's called "visitation." In our agreement, the kids would change houses every Friday. They would be at my home for a week and then my ex-husband's house for a week. We both agreed that we had to live in the same school district, and we divided the holidays by odd and even years.

Through the years that we raised our children, we didn't fight about time with them. However, there were a few things that I had to deal with that I wish I didn't have to. One time, on my husband's week, my youngest son called me because his dad was on a business trip, and he wanted to go to a school evening event and asked if I would take him. He was being cared for by my ex-husband's live-in girlfriend, and since we couldn't get ahold of my ex (he was on an airplane) to ask for permission, the girlfriend was in charge, and she said, "no." Do you know how messed up it is that she could have a say over MY children? So next time in court, we stipulated the "right of first refusal" so that if either one of us needed a babysitter during their week, the other parent would have the first option to care for the children. I shouldn't have had a court order for that, but they were not good people. The other thing that happened was my nephew was graduating high school on my ex-husband's "week," and I asked if I could take my sons to the graduation, and he said, "no." A couple of weeks later, he asked if he could have the boys one night during my week for an event that was for his girlfriend. Now my current husband said, "tell him no because that is what he said to you." But I didn't do that. I said yes. I told my husband, "I don't do things out of spite or because someone did something to me. I have to make a decision based on what kind of person I want to be". After saying "yes" a few times on my weeks, he started saying "yes" on his weeks.

Co-parenting was not easy, and I couldn't wait until my sons turned 18 so that I wouldn't have to deal with my ex-husband anymore. We were supposed to split expenses, and I would get frustrated because his girlfriend would have the "say," and I didn't have kids with her!

Sometimes my ex was friendly, and we would sit together at the boys' sports games, and other times he wasn't speaking to me. He would talk badly about me to the boys and some of our mutual friends. Some parents even stopped associating with me because of what he said about me. One parent wouldn't let his son come to my house to play with my sons on my weeks. I'm not going to lie; it sucked.

There was a brief time when I moved out of the area, paying my ex-husband child support. When I moved back, we needed to modify the court order, and all we needed to do was submit a document that I had filled out, and he just had to sign. My ex-husband's girlfriend had him get a lawyer (a mean snake-lawyer who had bars on the windows of his office, and you had to get beeped in). He told my ex to have me sign a document saying that we had equal earning potential (to protect him from having to pay child support to me, ever), and I wouldn't sign it because it wasn't t true. So, we ended up having to go to court, and the judge made my ex-husband pay me child support, even though we had 50/50 custody. Every dollar of that child support went to pay my attorney. I am not joking, all of $20,000. This money could have paid for part of the kid's college. In addition to that, my ex had to pay his attorney. Such bad advice!!! In hindsight, I wish I would have just signed that stupid document even though it wasn't true.

When my oldest son turned 18, he was in his last year of high school, and he told his dad that he didn't want to go back and forth anymore and was going to stay with me, so he did. The younger son decided that if his older brother wasn't going back and forth anymore, neither was he.

Currently, we must deal with each other at events such as weddings, etc. My ex-husband broke up with his girlfriend (yay), moved to Hawaii, and married his high school sweetheart (she's nice and brings me Kona coffee and Macadamia nuts when they visit). My husband and I moved to Texas (from CA), and my oldest son got married and followed us. They now have a baby, and my ex-husband comes to visit a few times a year, and we always have them over for dinner and treat each other kindly because guess what? We will be seeing each other now and then for the rest of our lives. We share grandchildren now.

I wrote this article hoping that it would help divorced parents to focus on what is best for their children. Those children belong to both of you, and you are both equally entitled to spend time with them.

IF YOU KEEP YOUR CHILDREN AWAY FROM THE OTHER PARENT, YOU ARE ONLY HURTING THE CHILDREN. Children NEED BOTH of their parents. It breaks my heart when I hear that a dad hasn't seen his children in months because the ex-wife won't let him. Doesn't the mom realize that she is hurting her children, who she CLAIMS to love? Keeping your children away from each other is NOT LOVE. It's CONTROL.

Since COVID, I've been watching Texas family court trials online. Time and time again, the mother is withholding the child or children from seeing their father. It's so sad. I even heard one father say that it's been a year and that the Sheriffs/ Police won't help. The judge does NOTHING! I don't get it. If a father doesn't pay child support, he can go to jail, but nothing happens if a mother keeps the kids from the father.

Once my sons were adults, I asked them, "how did you like the sharing of custody between your father and me?". They both answered that they liked it because IT WAS FAIR.

You know what? Fair is a good achievement after all the stress and negativity of divorce. I hope that others who are going through a difficult divorce will be motivated to be fair, as well.

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Everybody has a story and I'm fascinated with "our" stories... you, me, just everyday people. I like stories that we can learn from, stories that send a message, hopefully a positive message, and stories that make you think. This is a new journey for me and I hope you find my stories interesting.

Flower Mound, TX

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