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Custodial parents' responsibilities when a co-parent returns

Sometimes, following divorce, one parent may be largely absent from their children's lives. Often this is because they're living far from the kids and the custodial parent. Maybe they're even overseas while serving in the military. Unfortunately, some parents have little or no contact with their kids because they're incarcerated or in an in-patient recovery or mental health facility.

When these absent parents are able to once again re-enter their children's lives, the transition can be challenging for both the kids and the parents. The custodial parent can play a crucial role in helping their kids reunite with their other parent.

Regardless of how you feel about your co-parent being back in your children's lives, if the court has ordered it, it's essential to help your children adjust to their new routine with their returning parent. This should begin with a detailed parenting plan and parenting time schedule. You and your co-parent will need to file this with the court with the help of your attorneys.

The custodial parent should begin keeping the returning parent informed about the kids' activities, schooling, medical issues and other aspects of their lives. They may not be used to doing this if the other parent has been gone for awhile. It's normal to resent your co-parent's entrance back into your kids' lives if you've been bearing the sole responsibility for their care. However, making things difficult for the returning parent is only going to end up hurting your kids.

No matter how you feel about your co-parent, you should remain positive about them to your children. Encourage your kids to enjoy their time with their returning parent. Don't make them feel guilty for spending less time with you.

Sometimes the initial parenting plan that's developed when a parent returns is only temporary. For example, a parent who has only supervised visitation may eventually be granted unsupervised visitation or even shared custody. Sometimes the initial plan needs to be revised to take into account the kids' changing schedules as they get older or it no longer is working for other reasons. Your family law attorney can help you seek modifications if you believe they're in your children's best interests.

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