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Child Custody Sagas

 

June 1, 2005
Written by CMDR Staff

The Custodial Saga of Ann and Michael Brand

Ann and Michael were a storybook version of a young married couple. He was tall with dark hair and blue eye. She was petite and slender with long blonde hair and dark brown eyes. They met in high school, dated through college and got married in the college chapel a week after graduation. Michael got a job as a software salesperson with a good salary and an even better commission opportunity. Ann went to work in an advertising firm with a beautiful office, albeit long hours. Life was good; they loved their jobs and each other.
The next logical steps followed. They bought a home in the suburbs, a loveable puppy and began to plan for a family. First came Taylor. Ann continued to work, but the long hours and frenetic pace began to wear her down. She and Michael agreed that she should stay home with Taylor. A year later, Jake was born. So there they were, living on Apple Lane with their two beautiful children and what appeared to be the perfect life.

Around year 10 of their marriage, when Taylor was 7 and Jake was 5, things were no longer looking so rosy. Michael traveled more and more often and Ann was left with all of the responsibilities of caring for her two children. She was lonely, tired and unhappy. Although she loved her children, she missed the challenges of her career and she missed spending time with Michael. It seemed like whenever Ann and Michael were together they fought about the children and Michael’s travel schedule. They tried to resolve their issues with a marriage counselor, but there had been too much damage done. Angry words and hostile actions had gotten way out of line and divorce became inevitable.

They agreed on everything with the exception of custody. Michael wanted joint custody. He proposed that Ann return to work full time and they hire a nanny to care for the children before and after school. Ann felt that she could not handle single parenting while working in the advertising world. She proposed to get a part time job working “mother’s hours” while the children were in school and have primary custody. Michael thought her idea was ridiculous. He didn’t intend to give up being a father. There was no reason Ann should complain about a full time job as long as there was a nanny.

It appeared that they would end up in a custodial battle. Ann’s lawyer said not to worry; she had been the children’s primary caretaker since birth; she would get the children. Michael’s lawyer said not to worry; there is no reason for Ann to stay home. Michael just needed to reduce his travel schedule and he would be an involved dad.

Ann and Michael became worried. They did not like the threats being bantered about. Neither one wanted to wage a custody battle. Both were loving parents. They had known each other far too long to become gladiators. And, of course, they did not want the children to suffer as a result of their disagreements. A couple close to both of them had recently gotten divorced and had hired a mediator. They suggested that the Brands try mediation.

With the help of a mediator, the Brands agreed that Ann would work “mother’s hours” and be home for the children after school to help with homework and arrange for play dates. Michael would take the children to school each morning so that Ann could get an early start. As for the weekdays, the mediator helped Ann and Michael structure a schedule where the children would spend one night at Michael’s house on the weeks where they would be with their dad for the weekend and two nights on the weeks of Ann’s weekend. Michael was able to arrange his travel schedule to coordinate with his parenting schedule. The mediator helped Ann and Michael to work out a schedule that fit both of their lives. Michael’s job required a travel obligation. In reality, he could not handle the job and a joint custody obligation. But he was a great dad and he didn’t want to be a part-time father. On the other hand, Ann did not want the children to be separated from their dad for long periods of time; she worked with Michael to adjust their parenting schedule to his travel, making sure the children would be with him before he went out of town and when he returned.

Custody can be one of the most challenging areas to address when getting divorced. Your children are your most precious “possession” and no parent wants their children to be hurt at his or her expense. Mediation provides a rational and effective way to ensure that both parents have a say in the well being of the children. A skilled mediator helps parents to craft creative solutions despite hectic schedules and feelings of loss and losing. The end goal is to ensure the children’s safety and security in a world where they have two loving parents.


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