THE PRIMARY PARENT
By Sari M. Friedman, Legal Counsel
Fathers' Rights Association (NYS & Long Island)
So, you think you have been the primary parent.
Years ago, determining this was not a real problem. It was assumed the
mother was the best nurturer, the parent who was at HOME and able to spend
the most quality time with a child. But for the last quarter of a century
when women entered the work force, things have changed. As mothers have
taken on the role of co-bread winner, fathers have assumed new roles and
both or either parent may have also assumed many other societal problems
including drugs, alcohol, and even philandering.
So how does the judge now determine who is a "good " person and
parent and the most suited to potentially continue to be primary parent?
By checking against a list of standards that represent good parenting.
Then considering the qualities of the parent in the totality of a best
interest of the child analysis.
GOOD PARENTING STANDARDS
- No drug or alcohol abuse
- No criminal activity
- No habitual gambling
- No record of violent behavior
- No psychiatric problems that are severe enough to affect judgment
- Does the parent interfere with the child's relationship with the other parent?
Does the parent exhibit good judgment and set a proper example?
- Does the parent exhibit good moral behavior?
- Participate in the child's religious education?
- Teach the child honesty, being charitable and kind toward others
Does the parent take good care of the child's needs, both physical
- Does the parent arrange appropriate doctor visits?
- Oversee the child's education by helping with HOMEwork and meeting,
as scheduled, with the teacher?
- See to it that the child gets to school on time
- Arrange for the child to be involved in stimulating and educational activities
such as after-school sports, music, dance, or other activities
- Arrange play dates for the child and provide appropriate transportation
- Take the child shopping for clothing
- Making sure the child practices proper hygiene and eats properly
- Give the child good personal time, guidance and nurturing by talking or
enjoying age appropriate activities that could include such things as
sports, either watching the child play or participating in the play
- Be a reliable person to the child by listening to the child and helping
him/her resolve problems, reassuring the child and encouraging the child
in his/her endeavors
- Being aware of the child's parental needs and meeting these needs requires
insight and good judgment.Employing reasonable punishment for bad behavior,
for example, is not only a good discipline but also a sign of good parenting.
In today's society, where many children are being raised by two parents
who are both in the workforce, it can be difficult sometimes to determine
who has been the primary parent to the child, or the parent primarily
responsible for raising the child. But this can be equally difficult when
there is one non-working parent who may be distracted by other interests,
or have other serious personality problems. Chances are you, as a parent,
already know who is the preferred primary parent. But your spouse may
sharply disagree. Then it becomes a court issue.
The standards used to determine who may be the primary parent in the future
may well be established by determining who successfully has performed
more of the above mentioned tasks on a consistent basis.
If you haven't given any serious thought to these things, the ideal
time to do so is before the
separation. But it is never too late. Check yourself against this list and try to
pre-determine how the court would judge your parental performance. And
whatever may be wrong, fix it. And do it now.