Co-Parenting in a Divorce and Taking Children in a Bar
March 30, 2017
BY: Francesca O'Cathain, Esq.
Can You Ever Have Your Children In A Bar?
Months ago, following a firm happy hour, I wrote a blog post about having children at bars and how to handle other controversial parenting time issues while going through a breakup or co-parenting in a divorce. The blog post turned out to be a popular blog post because, well, it’s IRLP— ‘in real life parenting,’ and, regardless of whether you are going through a divorce or co-parenting in a divorce/break-up, in real life situations occur, and it’s not always as black and white as we sometimes wish it was…
I wrote the post after my children ended up joining my office for a happy hour at a local bar and grill (#GeneralPoors). My kids love their ‘office friends,’ and were happy enough drinking Shirley Temples and coloring pictures while we all enjoyed a few beers. A picture of the happy hour ended up on our firm Facebook page (we love Facebook!). Ten minutes later my phone was buzzing and everyone teased me about having my children ‘in a bar.’
The reality is that it was totally appropriate to have my children at the happy hour that day.
However, that day (and truthfully other day-to-day) parenting time decisions I have made have made me think: what if one my clients had done what I did, or what if one of my clients had seen her/his spouse’s firm post a similar picture on Facebook?
How does a parent who does not trust the other co-parent know if a situation is appropriate? This could be something like bringing a kid to a happy hour, or having a child miss school to go skiing, or missing homework to go to see a show. How do we as family lawyers in New Jersey know when there is a legitimate issue, or when it is a litigation issue? These are tough questions and there is no right answer.
The best advice I have is that we often need to learn more about the situation before we jump on it as co-parents or as attorneys. For example, in the above situation, it would be worth finding out more facts before passing judgment. For example, was it appropriate for the children to be present at the bar, were there other children present, what time did they get home at, etc. But in a relationship where there is no trust (such as a divorcing couple), it is often easy to jump on something and assume the worst right away.
So my advice is that if you are in a divorce or custody proceeding do what I say, not as I do! Be wary of exposing yourself or your children on any social media platform. Also, if you think a situation could be misconstrued, then it may be worth sending the other parent a quick text or e-mail letting them know in advance about the situation.
If you are the parent on the other side, it may be worth taking a step back and asking a question before getting upset. One thing for sure is that parents should agree on whether or not they allow pictures of their children to go on social media.
This piece is certainly not advocating to take your children to a bar, nor is it suggesting that my children will be at future happy hours (we all need breaks sometimes), but it is raising some questions parents should consider outside of whether they are in a mood for an IPA or a Pilsner!
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