How to handle a power struggle over children during a divorce

If you’re engaged in a power struggle over the kids, consider the following thoughts and suggestions:

Assume that the children want a relationship with both parents. Understand they will avoid at all costs the appearance of disloyalty in the eyes of either parent.
• Children should not have to choose between parents. Do not put them in the position of having to show partiality.
• Do not expect to rapidly reform the behavior of the other parent. It helps to accept that this person may never change. Go about doing the best you can for your children, given the other parent’s current character traits and disposition.
• Build goodwill if possible. Be quick to acknowledge reasonable behavior and cooperation when it occurs.
Advice and tips for parents who are not the primary custodians and are often the one requesting to spend time with the children.
• Manners count; name-calling and hanging up on people rarely helps.
• No one likes demands or ultimatums.
• Do not threaten to take custody or have the other parent thrown in jail.
• Make it known that you wish to have the first option of spending time with the children before any babysitters or third parties are utilized.
• Don’t keep asking when the answer is no; this is one of those times when no usually means no.
• Request that you be contacted if the other parent should “reconsider.”
• Suggest alternative dates and times if your initial request is denied.
• Keep a detailed communication log of all your interaction with your ex.
• If you are “allowed” time, use it wisely to build upon your relationship with your children.
• Avoid criticizing the other parent for not spending time with the children.
• Don’t drink or use drugs when the children are with you.
• If you are offered any time with your children, no matter when, how limited, or how short the notice, do whatever you can to take it.
• Keep your time with the children as your time with the children; it is not time to mix new relationships and other activities involving friends or new significant others, at least not for a while.

For custodial parents, it may be helpful to consider the following:

• Moms/dads are parents too.
• Children need parents, not just weekend visitors.
• Denying visitation is not fair to your children.
• It is simply wrong to use the children to “punish” your ex. They are not weapons.
• When children grow up, they often resent the parent who interfered with their relationship with the other parent.
• You could use a break; make good use of the time that the children are not with you.
• When it comes to financial matters, including child support, there is far more voluntary compliance when there is true reasonable and liberal access to the children and involvement in their lives.
• In a custody battle one of the biggest strikes against you could be a judge believing that you as the primary custodian would jerk the other parent around, whereas he would not do the same to you.
• You are your own worst court witness when you get caught unreasonably denying visitation.

The list above can be found in the Taylor Law & Mediation’s Divorce and separation survival guide for parents. To request a PDF copy of the entire guide, please email To learn more about mediation as an alternative solution to traditional divorce litigation, visit our mediation page or read this PDF file on why Mediation might be right for you.