Q: When we separated for the first time, our son was 4 years old. We stayed apart for a year, then reconciled, and now have another child 7 months of age.
Our last child was a "reconciliation commitment," but we could not seem to work things out. I moved out both times and left her in the home we had shared. I now live in a two-bedroom apartment on the other side of town, which is about 45 minutes away. I have put a crib in the living room for my daughter. I have a lady friend whom I see regularly, but not around the children. My wife just went back to work. I am voluntarily paying support.
I want a relationship with both of my children and would like to keep them from Sunday evening through Wednesday morning of each week, but my wife is trying to restrict my visitation.
Our son is starting the first grade. Our daughter is in day care. I believe that she is motivated by her hate for me rather than her desire to do what is best for the children.
Before I spend a lot of money on lawyers, I would like your opinion of her chances of restricting my rights with my children?
A: The primary purpose of visitation is to promote the best interests of the children, not the wishes or desires of the parents. While minor children are entitled to the love and companionship of both parents, visitation schedules must be consistent with their welfare.
Fostering a healthy relationship between a parent and child requires regular visitation, but courts should and will restrict or deny this right depending on the circumstances and whether visitation is likely to endanger the child's physical or emotional health.
While we certainly understand your desire to develop a meaningful bond with your children, we believe that under the circumstances, you are seeking divided custody which, under these circumstances, is unreasonable and not in your children's best interests for several reasons:
1) Your son is beginning the first grade and needs stability, not being driven an extra 45 minutes to school on three of five school days.
2) Your son and daughter should be allowed to sleep in their own rooms in familiar surroundings.
3) Your daughter will probably be placed in two different day-care facilities, which we do not believe will be in her best interests.
4) You will be required to get up much earlier in the morning to deliver your children to school and day care before you go to work and will have to leave early to pick them up.
5) Having your children in an automobile for an extra hour and a half each day is tiring and not beneficial to them.
Where, as here, there is a relatively long distance between the homes of the custodial and non-custodial parents, we do not believe that divided custody will work, even if you and your wife were getting along.
We believe that a more reasonable approach would be to seek alternate weekend visitation with the understanding that visits with your daughter should be more limited until she becomes older.