When the judge decided that Marjorie should have joint custody of her daughter, Marjorie said he took time to explain the factors he took into consideration. One thing he made clear though is custody isn’t an automatic right. Here’s Marjorie:
My ex came in there looking for status quo, wanting to keep things the way it was, wanting to keep the same parenting plan and wanting to have the majority decision-making, so he asserted himself in court. I came into court just saying that I wanted what’s fair and balanced.
One thing that I was questioned about was, “Did I feel like I had a right to be in my child’s life just because I was her mother?” That’s not enough these days, just because you are her mother. You have to show that you are of good moral character and in good standing to say, “Yes, I’m her mother, but my rights stem from the fact that I’m a good mother.”
That sort of caught me off guard because there was a part of me that felt, “Well, I’m her mother and she needs to have her mother, she needs to have that balance in her life.” But I said to the judge that I felt that I had been a good mother all of these years, up until this arrest and me being removed from my home, there was never an issue. I think that’s enough, I think that speaks volumes, and after that happened, I’ve still been active in my child’s life. I think the judge could see where my ex was trying to build this case to make me look sick in a way.
The thing that women need to understand is that the other party will try to manipulate you to scare you out of going to court and fighting, especially if your husband has been making more money and you’ve been staying home, or if he’s the one that has all the money, if he has the house, they are going to exert that power and try to manipulate you and intimidate you out of going and fighting for your rightful place in your child’s life. I think that every mother knows in their heart that they’re on the same level as the father, they can offer the same thing. Nothing material, but they can be there in their child’s life, and they should go ahead and fight! Fight all the way through.
The Divorce Coach Says
I thought this was a really interesting point and I’m not sure if I agree with the judge but perhaps it’s more about the degree. I do think that as a parent, you have a right to see your child and to spend time with your child but if your parenting skills are poor, then I can see where that right may not mean equal joint custody or joint decision-making. And if there are safety concerns, then visits can be supervised.
The presumption in most states these days is equal shared custody but if you lose that presumption, as Marjorie did, then you should expect to have to demonstrate that you do indeed have the necessary parenting skills and commitment to earn back the privilege of shared custody.
My concern is what is the standard for being a “good parent?” Is it being the best parent you can be, given the talents and gifts you have and your circumstances or is a judgment made relative to other parents? To me the latter is not healthy or reasonable. The former is legitimate.
What I always admired about Marjorie was the ways she found to stay involved with her daughter even when she was the non-custodial parent: the volunteering for field trips, the lunches at school. That’s how you stay active, that’s how you show you care and that shows commitment. And I think those actions made a difference for Marjorie.
How do you stay involved with your child when it’s not your parenting time? What do think the standard of being a good parent should be?