Thank you for the great article, “Programs help ease negative impact of divorce on children,” by Ruth Ellen-Cohen (BDN, Dec. 16-17). I, too, attended a program called “We still love our children,” offered by Washington Hancock Community Agency in December 1996. It helped me to understand the many positive benefits of co-parenting and of keeping the children out of the middle of conflict.
A “typical” court order made me a visitor in my son’s life after my former wife convinced a judge that she wanted to move out of Washington County to make a better life for herself. Even though my son had been living with me every weekend under a previous court order, the final decree was every other weekend and every other Thursday except if my ex-wife moved out of New England, whereby I would lose Thursday visitation.
It is still typical in more than 90 percent of the divorces in Washington County for the mother to gain custody of the children. Worse, the family court judge and mediator are convincing the father to accept “liberal visitation” terms. Unfortunately for the father and children, this custody arrangement does not protect the father if the mother decides she doesn’t want him to see the children for reasons of inconvenience or otherwise. Further, the father has no legal recourse, but he would have been able to bring contempt charges if his “regularly scheduled visitation” was canceled, under a new Maine Family Law Regulation.
I disagree that our Maine court system is recognizing that “children need both parents,” because I have checked many divorce court records, and I speak with fathers who are visitors in their children’s lives every day. It would be nice if a judge would tell the parents, “you two go work out your co-parenting schedule and when you’re finished I will incorporate it into your divorce.” Then parents could once again be parents.