Q: I am the mother of a 5-year-old boy. The father is living in a separate residence. I have been the caretaker of our son since his birth. Now the father wants to be involved in the parenting. We both want a peaceful resolution.
A: The best interest of the child must be the goal of both parents. If both parents are capable of taking good care of the child, and if the parents do not have any problems like alcohol or drug abuse, the involvement of both parents is recommended for the well-being of the child.
In any family dispute, child-related matters are often the most distressing, and if both parents can resolve the issue by mediation, it would be less stressful. If the parents are on amicable terms, they can try to discuss the matter peacefully. It is good to seek some legal help from a mediator to facilitate meaningful discussions. Mediation is the process by which a neutral evaluator can help to resolve most or all of the issues. The mediator does not represent one party individually, but gives guidance to both parties to reach an informed decision. The mediator does not have a confidential relationship with either party and discusses all the issues with both parties, in this case to facilitate the involvement of the father in the son’s life.
VISITATION FOR FATHER
Since you have been the major caretaker of the child till now, the first step for the father is to start a visitation schedule. The child must be given an opportunity to make a slow transition so as to avoid any emotional harm. For example, the father can start with 10 percent time, and then ramp it up to 50 percent of visitation time with the child. It is important for the father to diligently comply with the visitation schedule for the child’s well-being. A well-written detailed visitation schedule and compliance with the terms will help to fulfill the daily activities smoothly.
There are issues regarding legal and physical custody. Legal custody involves decisions regarding schooling, medical care, and other related issues. Physical custody deals with the parents’ physical presence with the child. Once the visitation is well established the parents can consider joint legal custody, and later discuss sole or joint physical custody.
The parents have to address the issues about childcare and health insurance. Both parents can enroll the child for health insurance through their employers and agree to share any childcare costs equally.
The mediator can help draft the stipulation and order, involving all the visitation, custody, support, and related issues to resolve the matter.
Raji Rajan has a law office in Sunnyvale. (408) 730-9492.