Introduce yourself to school coaches and activity leaders, and score a homerun in court!
Nick Jones plays football on the varsity team at school. He hangs out with his teammates. He wears his football jersey day and night and has all the telltale signs of a school jock. Nick’s mother has primary physical custody of Nick and has been his main caregiver since the divorce five years ago. Both parents attend his football games, but they don’t sit near each other. Nick’s mother does a good job at home, attends school functions regularly, participates in the PTA, and communicates regularly with his teachers.
Nick’s father, on the other hand, chats with Nick’s coaches when he attends the games. He makes a point of shaking hands with each of the football coaches at each of the games. When Nick’s parents recently fought over holiday and summer visitation time, Nick told a court-appointed evaluator that he want to spend all of his free time with his father. “Why not divide your time between mother and father?” asked the evaluator. Nick’s response was very telling. He said, “because my father knows my coaches. He knows my game. He knows the plays.”
Nick’s case is not unusual. In many child custody disputes, the favored parent is the one who connects with the child’s school coaches and activity leaders. If the child’s heart lies in football, then the secret to bonding with the child is to get closer to his football game. If the child is an up-and-coming ballet star, then introducing yourself to the ballet teacher and learning what’s in store for the upcoming class can provide a real advantage in connecting with the child.
Of course, it may seem typical for a father to take interest in football and a mother to take interest in ballet. But there’s no rule that says parents must stick to these traditional (or even sexist) roles. Mom can shake hands with the football coaches; dad can introduce himself to the ballet teachers. Getting to know your child’s coaches, outside instructors and the leaders of your child’s extra-curricular clubs and activities can provide greater insight into your child’s special interests. And finally, you may find yourself talking with your child about something he or she is truly interested in.
In a contested child custody case, coaches and activity leaders can be valuable witnesses who can testify about which parent was more actively involved in the child’s recreational affairs.