Co-Parenting After The Divorce

A guest post by Bob Kornitzer

bob kornitzerCo-parenting following a divorce (or following the split-up of a non-married couple) presents unique challenges to both parents; but especially to the dad who is now assuming an active parenting role in functions that were previously the sole domain of mom. A good example rests in dad’s interactions with his child’s pediatrician and the child’s health-related needs. Not only is active involvement in the child’s day-to-day medical needs a foreign subject to many newly divorced dads, but there are unique legal issues that I see frequently in my practice as family law attorney that cannot be ignored. For my illustration, I am assuming that dad has joint legal custody (involvement in major decisions involving the health, safety and welfare of the child) and also physical parenting time with the child.

Dad must keep in mind that he needs to be pro-active in learning everything about the child’s health-related needs. This means understanding any special problems of the child, researching those problems, joining the child at medical appointments and being part of the child’s medical decision process. A mom who is used to solely handling this role may not take kindly to what she perceives to be an intrusion into her historic parenting role. She may resist and either actively or passively leave dad out of the “loop”.

It is up to the newly active dad to sometimes bite his tongue, be diplomatic, but be persistent and consistent in participating in the child’s medical needs. Dad has the legal and moral right to help care for the child’s needs, but if dad is not consistent and active, he will effectively erode and minimize his role in the future. It is one thing to talk the talk, but dad must walk the walk.

The importance of cooperative consistency plays out in critical custodial issues. For instance, the more active a dad is in being involved with attending pediatric appointments, the more he will be recognized by the child, the mother, the pediatrician and potentially by the courts as a necessary ongoing component of the child’s life.

Keep in mind that even though I am using medical involvement as my example, this extends to all areas of a child’s needs such as education, sports, activities and religious training. Many divorcing dads who fought so hard to have the right to be active in their child’s lives then turn around and effectively give up that right by reverting to an uninvolved status that may have been prevalent during the marriage. This undermines dad’s legal strength in the future if a) he is seeking additional parenting time or b) mom is seeking to reduce dad’s parenting time. Very critically and not understood by most dads is that being a very involved dad may be the most effective method of preventing your former spouse from relocating to a geographically distant location with the child. When it comes to having meaningful rights to be an active parent, “use it or risk losing it” may be the mantra that dad needs to keep repeating to himself.

Mr. Kornitzer is a partner at the law firm of Pashman Stein and the Chair of its Family Law Department.  His practice focuses in all aspects of family law including divorce litigation, mediation, arbitration, post-judgment litigation, custody, relocation, domestic violence, premarital agreements, assets protection agreements, grandparents rights, spousal and child support. Mr. Kornitzer can be reached at 201-488-8200 or at

Understanding Children’s Dreams and Nightmares + Partnering with Your Pediatrician + Twins 101

[amazon asin=1442213302&template=thumbleft&chan=default] Kelly Bulkeley, co-author of Children’s Dreams
Understanding the dreams and nightmares of childhood
Issues: The science of dreams and imagination; the purpose of dreams; dreams of early childhood; dreams of middle and late childhood; interpreting dreams; dreams as play

[amazon asin=1591026199&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Christopher Johnson, author of How to talk to Your Child’s Doctor.
Partnering with your doctor to effectively care for your child.
Issues: The importance of the medical history; how and why the doctor examines your child; how to handle a difficult doctor; solving problems the way your doctor does.

[amazon asin=0470343680&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Khan-Van Le-Bucklin, author of Twins 101.
Must-have tips for pregnancy through early childhood
Issues: Twin shock—what happens to parents when they get the news they’re expecting multiples; getting twins on the same schedule; telling identical twins apart; critical survival skills for parents of twins.

Call in the Professionals. Now.

Dear Mr. Dad: My six-year-old son is behaving aggressively. Just yesterday, he was suspended from school for two days because he poked another child in the eye with a pencil. Fortunately, the other kid wasn’t seriously injured. And not long before that, he poked his sister (who’s ten) with a pair of scissors. I’ve tried time-outs, talking to him, removing toys from his room, not letting him have playdates or watch TV, and I’m not sure what to do next. Can you recommend any books on discipline?

A: It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. And yes, there are a lot of great discipline books out there. But you’re way, way beyond the book stage. If your son were just pushing kids or snatching toys away from them, some new discipline strategies might help. But he’s doing things that could cause serious damage to others; taking away his toys and not letting him watch cartoons isn’t going to do the trick You need to get your son evaluated right away by a good child psychologist. The school nurse or the principal will probably have a list. If they don’t, ask your pediatrician for some recommendations. Clearly, there’s something going on here that’s well beyond anything you can deal with on your own. You’ve been lucky so far. But make an appointment today—before your son does something truly horrific.

The Reality of Childhood Depression

Dear Mr. Dad: Over the past several months, our 12-year-old son has become increasingly moody, sad, and withdrawn. He has no friends and no interest in school or any other activities. When we ask him what’s wrong, he tells us to leave him alone and says that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Is it possible for a child this age to have depression?

A: Absolutely. For some reason I’ve never understood, a lot of people think that childhood depression is a myth (“oh, come on, what do kids have to be depressed about?”) As a result, too many parents, teachers, and other adults ignore (or rationalize away) behaviors like the ones your son is exhibiting. I’m glad you’re paying attention.
The truth is that childhood depression is a reality. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, about five percent of children and adolescents in the general population suffer from depression at any given point in time. And a recent study of 9- to 17-year-olds sponsored by National Institute of Mental Health, estimates that the prevalence of any kind of depression is more than 6 percent, while 4.9 percent suffering from major depression.
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