There are rare days when, talking with divorcing or divorced parents, we do not see their confusion, resentment, anger and perplexity in their role and the relationship with the other parent, regardless of which parent the child lives with.

Parents’ justifications and complaints

There are common situations when parents say: “Our child is in father’s custody, or our child is in mother’s custody, what are my role and obligations, what should I do?” Or: “Our child’s mother does not let me come to school.” “Father does not let me take our child to the doctor.” “Mother does not let me come to our child’s activity.” “I do not go to school because our child’s father got custody.” “I did not bring the referral ticket because his/her father has the health ID.” “I do not learn with our child, his/her mother has the books.” “I do not know which school s/he will attend, I am the non-custodial parent.” “Child’s gather decided that s/he should go to his/her winter holidays because s/he lives with him.” “I would like to go to the park with our child, but his/her mother does now allow it. When s/he is with me, we always go to the country.”

Letter of the law

“Parental care consists of parental responsibilities, duties and rights. Parents, regardless of whether they live together or not, equally, together and in agreement, care for the child, unless otherwise stated by law” (Family Act, art. 99, para 1.). The law says that only one parent cares for the child in cases when the other has died, has been declared dead, was terminated parental rights, was deprived of legal capacity regarding child care or is unable. Family Act (art. 100) states that, if parents do not live as a family, the court shall decide with whom the child will live and determine the way and time of contacts with the other parent.

Unfortunately, such decisions are in practice interpreted as if the non-custodial parent only has the right to contacts and to participate in child support, which is untrue, since parental care is both mother’s and father’s, jointly and they need to come to agreement about it.

None of the parents has more important role regarding the child, unless the court has ruled otherwise, which is possible only if it is necessary to protect the benefit of the child.

Situations we encounter in our professional work are, e.g., not informing the other parent that the child is visiting a professional, or asking the child not to tell that s/he has visited a professional, negotiating contacts with the child, refusing the other parent’s cooperation commenting “custody is his/her, were the child with me, this would not be happening” and numerous similar situations.

What children need after parental divorce

Parental responsibilities and obligations include protecting their child from suffering. It is good to remind ourselves what the child needs after parental divorce which is already stressful enough for all family members:

The child needs:

· both parents

· permission to love both parents regardless of with whom s/he lives

· knowledge that divorce is adults’ problem, and not children’s responsibility or fault

· stability and predictability and the experience of conflict-free and arguments-free communication between parents.

The child needs parents who are able to cooperate in upbringing and satisfying his/her needs and parent’s positive attitude towards the continuity of the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent, regardless of what parents feel for each other.

Nikolina Škrlec, Social Worker, M. A.

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