Give ‘em enough rope

Sometimes, in contested custody cases, parents seek more time with the children than they actually want or can realistically handle.  The motivation can be malevolent: a desire to “punish” the other parent or pay less child support by arguing for application of Schedule C Child Support Guidelines.  The motivation can also be merely misguided: many parents who ignore their children when younger (or while they were in a romantic relationship with the other parent) believe they can salvage the relationship by merely increasing the time spent.  And sometimes these parents actually have good intentions and will improve their parenting to the point that the increased time with the children actually benefits the children.

However for the custodial parent it’s often hard to gauge the motivations of the parent seeking additional time.  For cases in which there aren’t safety concerns regarding the parent seeking additional visitation, one can employ a strategy I term “give ‘em enough rope.”  This entails offering the other parent additional temporary visitation conditioned upon the other parent not seeking a reduction in child support based on this increased visitation.  If the other parent balks at the additional visitation unless support is reduced too, that parent reveals that the motivation is money and not time with the children.

If that parent agrees to increased visitation without a change in support, and exercises that increased visitation in a manner beneficial to the children, the custodial parent will probably be unsuccessful in keeping that increased visitation from becoming permanent.  However this increased visitation has been beneficial for the children and the custodial parent has prevented a reduction in child support that might have resulted from an award of increased visitation.

If the other parent agrees to these terms but then fails to exercise the additional visitation that was demanded, one can easily defend a permanent request for increased visitation by showing the visitation isn’t actually be exercised.  If the other parent agrees to these terms but creates problems through the increased visitation (uncompleted homework; clashes with the children), one can easily defend a permanent request for increased visitation by showing the increased visitation isn’t in the children’s best interests.  Give ‘em enough rope and sometimes they will hang themselves.


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