The ongoing custody battle between R&B singer Usher and his ex-wife, Tameka Foster, highlights the challenges that busy parents face today. It is already hard enough for two parents to manage busy professional schedules and still make time for their children. It is even harder when the parents are divorced. Last Friday, an Atlanta judge rejected Foster’s emergency motion for temporary custody of the couple’s five-year-old son. Foster filed the motion after little Usher was caught in a pool drain while under his aunt’s supervision.
Foster’s lawyer cited her client’s concern that Usher preferred to leave the children with third-party caregivers, over her. Ultimately, Usher’s busy travel schedule was not enough to deprive him of custody. Accidents happen, even when children live with both parents. And when parents, like Usher, have demanding schedules, it is inevitable that third-party caregivers will have to watch the children. The only other option would be for Usher to take his children with him. This would likely have resulted in yet another motion—this time potentially accusing Usher of failing to provide his children with a stable home environment. So, what are busy parents to do?
Parents can set aside emotions and simply communicate.
When it comes to children, parents must set aside their emotions and simply communicate. Whether face-to-face or through trusted intermediaries, the custodial parent should let the other know about scheduled absences. Both parents should know where the children will be while the custodial parent is away. More importantly, both parents should be familiar with the caregivers that will be supervising the children while the custodial parent travels. If possible, the parents may wish to hold a meeting with caregivers to establish a level of comfort and share expectations.
If it is in the best interests of the children, the custodial parent may consider allowing the other parent to supervise the children while he or she is away. This is easier when both parents live in the same city so that the children’s daily routine is not disturbed. If this is not possible, then any visitation schedules that already exist with the non-custodial parent should be kept in place.
No parent wants to leave his or her children for prolonged periods of time. But, in today’s world, many parents are forced to travel for business on a regular basis, or commute over long distances as part of their daily routine. Fortunately, technology helps make those long absences more manageable. Parents are able to chat with their children over video at any hour of the day, from virtually any location. Email and text messaging have also made it easier than ever for parents to keep track of their children and stay involved in their daily activities. While this may not be a substitute for having dinner with your kids, it is a reasonable accommodation.
Parents who travel often—and who are involved in contentious divorce or child custody proceedings—may wish to prepare a detailed travel plan that sets out all of the considerations discussed here. That document, depending on the jurisdiction, can be filed with the court. The goal is to ensure that a busy parent does not lose custody of his or her children simply because they have to make a living.