Your co-parent has been out of your children’s lives for some time and now is seeking to renew contact with them. Maybe they moved a long distance away after the divorce and are now relocating back to Austin. Perhaps they weren’t allowed to see the kids because of substance abuse or mental health issues, but have sought and been awarded visitation or shared custody. Maybe they’ve been incarcerated and are now being released.
Whatever the situation, renewing contact with an estranged parent can be traumatic for kids. It’s only natural to have concerns about how having their other parent back in their lives will affect your children. However, if the court has granted this custody or visitation, it’s essential to focus on helping your child rebuild this relationship — regardless of how you feel about it.
It’s best to have a clear plan in place. Likely, you and your attorney are working on negotiating this with your co-parent and their attorney. It’s important to have a detailed schedule in place so that your kids know when they’ll be visiting or staying with their other parent. Depending on the situation, you may be seeking supervised visitations.
It’s best when both parents understand that these reunifications need to move gradually. They may start with short visits once or twice a week and move to overnight stays or weekends together.
The estranged parent can and should be incorporated into their children’s lives to whatever extent is agreed on. This may require the custodial parent to begin sharing their kids’ school and extracurricular activities with their co-parent. Parents will need to find a way to communicate about their kids that minimizes conflict.
As with any co-parenting situation, it’s important not to speak ill of your ex to your kids. That may be difficult if you resent your co-parent’s absence and reemergence into your lives. However, assuming that a parent isn’t abusive or negligent, it’s typically best when kids can maintain a relationship with both parents.
If you’re concerned about how your kids will handle this reunification, it may be worthwhile to consider having them see a therapist, if they aren’t already. Your family law attorney may be able to provide some recommendations for family therapists in your area. They can also help you if you need to seek modifications to the custody and visitation order as your co-parent’s relationship with the kids evolves.