Here’s a stellar example of two divorced parents handling an exchange. Parents have an obligation to act this way.
[Consult with a family law attorney in your state; I am not an attorney]
As an airline pilot who has gone through the family court system too many years to remember, I’m asked frequently what custody arrangements should be used from fellow divorcing airline pilots.
The answer initially depends on how far the pilot lives from his children. If the pilot lives more than an hour’s drive or so away, alternating weekend possessions don’t work. Instead, request the ability to choose two weekends per month in your decree.
If the pilot lives in the area of the children, however, then approximately 50% of the time the children should be legally allowed to be with him or her.
The problem is our irregular schedules, and getting the legal system to understand how they interfere with seeing our kids if a standard visitation template is given to us. Most judges really don’t understand the changing schedules of pilots, firefighters, police officers, doctors, etc. They’d prefer to just approve a standard visitation template to make their jobs easier. This is where you need to find an attorney who understands variable possession orders, or airline employee possession orders (each state has its own name for it).
As an airline pilot, you’re aware that there are rare flying jobs with a typical 8am to 5pm schedule that most workers have. So a standard visitation order of alternating weekends (first, third, and fifth weekends typically) or weeks will not work for the vast majority of pilots.
So this is what you need: a variable possession order based around the airline pilot parent’s schedule. The alternative is severely diminished time between you and your kids.
The best way to go about this is to hire a family law attorney who’s familiar with these types of custody arrangements. This is critical. If he or she is board certified, all the better. If you don’t hire a family lawyer, your lawyer’s lack of knowledge in this area could result in a decision by the judge that steers towards the default standard possession order.
Once you hire an attorney, help him or her draft the language in an order to best enable you to see your kids on your off days. Many attorneys don’t understand the kind of schedules we have. This is your decree and your kids, so take an active part in making sure the language doesn’t hurt your ability to see them.
The important point is this: you and your attorney should demand a decree that offers possession of your kids on all or most of your days off, up to a maximum of 15 days per month. 50/50 physical custody, or as close as possible.
Seeing both parents equally, or as close to it as possible, is clearly in the best interest of your children— a standard used by every state. Don’t expect your ex to agree to this, however. There are many, many ex’s who will try to limit your ability to be with your kids.
Typical (weak) objections by the other parent to variable possession orders:
- ‘disrupts’ the child
- ‘disrupts’ the child’s activities
- inability for other parent to plan months out
- unstable for the child
- child doesn’t want it
Some sample language for your decree, or as arguments to opposing counsel [Consult with a family law attorney in your state; I am not an attorney. Many family law attorneys will, in fact, find the below helpful]:
- We request a variable possession order based on father’s employment as an airline pilot for __________.
- The variable nature of Mr. Smith’s schedule as an airline pilot makes any set pattern or template of visitation unworkable and inappropriate
- What works for a 9-5 salaried worker does not work for an airline pilot, or most airline employees for that matter
- It is not in the children’s best interest to have restricted contact to Mr. Smith because he doesn’t have a normal 9-5 job
- It is an injustice to penalize the children because their father has a job whose schedule changes from week to week and month to month
- Because of the irregularity of Mr. Roger’s schedule, we are unable to agree with your custody proposal, which would minimize the children’s time spent with him. Surely your goal is not to harm the children, which your proposal would by allowing them to see their father only 10-30% of the time
- Our proposed schedule gives equal parenting time to each parent and ensures the father will be available to care for his children on his days off
- Mother’s plan would take away children’s much needed time with their father and punish them simply because of his profession
- The (other parent’s) proposed standard possession order is not in the best interest of the children
- Other professions where a standard visitation order don’t work: firefighters, doctors, and police officers
Other things to consider (run these by your lawyer, too):
- If you’re going to appear before a judge, create a large poster with two sample schedules that you’ve flown. Overlay with colored markers the standard visitation days allowed to show exactly how few days your children and you would get to spend together. The power of this visual can’t be understated
- Get an HR or chief pilot to testify on your behalf. Their scope is narrow: back up your assertions about the type of schedules you fly, how your seniority affects this, etc.
- If your case goes to trial, put your ex on the stand and ask them, “If not 50/50 shared custody, what are you proposing?”
- Then ask, “Is this in the best interest of the children?”
- Your strategy all surrounds what’s in the best interest of the children. Everything flows downhill from this
- If your ex opposes an airline pilot possession order, expose the fact that this effort is all about HIM or HER and NOT the children. If 50/50 visitation is not fair for both sides and the children, what exactly is?
- If your divorce decree is already signed and done, it’s not too late. Wait until you’re legally allowed to modify the custody part of the decree, then go for a modification. Ask your lawyer about this
- Don’t underestimate your ex-spouse’s ability to brainwash your children to resent or outright despite you during the days and weeks you’re absent. It’s no accident this article is on a blog dealing with parental alienation.
I have noticed that in the majority of airline pilot divorces that the ex does not go along willingly with this visitation arrangement. So be prepared to have to fight this in the family court system.
Sample airline pilot possession orders [Consult with a family law attorney in your state; I am not an attorney]:
- Sample airline possession order template
- Actual wording from a cargo airline pilot’s decree: “Plaintiff, (name), and Defendant, (name), agree that the current parenting plan should be modified as follows: 1. Defendant shall provide his work schedule as a pilot for (airline) to the plaintiff as soon as he receives it via e-mail. The work schedule shall indicate when Defendant is available for parenting time with the children, and the parties contemplate that this will be in approximately two-week segments each month. 2. During the children’s school year, Defendant shall be entitled to parenting time with children from Thursday after school until Monday morning during the weeks he is not working. 3. During the summer break from school, Defendant shall be entitled to five weeks of parenting time with the children, to be exercised as follows: two interrupted weeks during which Defendant may take the children on vacation provided he provide Plaintiff with itinerary for any such trips and Plaintiff shall have telephone access to the children throughout such periods.”
- More wording you can run by your lawyer: “The Court further finds that due to his work schedule, FATHER is currently unable to exercise predictable periods of possession occurring on the same days of each month. The Court finds that FATHER’s schedule is published by (insert airline) on (insert dates). IT IS ORDERED that within ten days of FATHER’s receipt of the work schedule for the following bid period of (insert how many days bid period is), FATHER shall provide a true and correct copy of such
schedule to MOTHER by email, hand-delivery, facsimile, or first-class mail.”
If you remember only one thing, please remember this:
You and your kids should not be penalized by your employment as an airline pilot. Fight for the common sense right to see them as much as they see their other parent.
One lie that many brainwashing parents do to their children is making up completely fictitious stories about why the ex did not appear for, or appeared late for, visitation drop-offs or exchanges.
In my case, I told my son and his Mom that I wouldn’t be able to pick him up for consecutive weekends ahead of time. Funny thing is, I actually figured his Mom might bring him to the normal 4pm Friday exchange location anyway. Sure enough: she did. The next time I saw my son, he mentioned that Mom has been taking him on those Fridays to the exchange point in order to wait on me. He said that he was “confused.” Of course he was– confusion between my words of “I won’t be there on these weekends” and Mom’s act driving him there in order to wait on me, knowing full well that I won’t be there.
This is another sad example of parental soul-destruction leveled onto children. To take pleasure in watching your children absorb with heartache the lie that the other parent doesn’t care enough to show is very sick.
Here are some examples of how these mentally abusive parents operate:
You are 5 minutes late.
MEANING GIVEN BY YOUR EX TO YOUR KIDS
You don’t really care that much about seeing them. If you did, you would never show up late.
You need to move the time back 30 minutes due to traffic, work, etc.
MEANING GIVEN BY YOUR EX
Ex shows up at original time and explains how inconsiderate you are to be 30 minutes late.
You let ex know you’ll be out of town for a weekend or month.
MEANING GIVE BY YOUR EX
Ex shows up at your weekends’ normal time and place with your children, and informs your children that their Mommy or Daddy must not love them very much and doesn’t want to see them.
Parents willing to do this are completely OK with seeing their kids suffer. Instead of building the little tikes up with excitement, which is what nurturing parents do, these bad exes would rather plant a mean lie into their kids’ heads in order to poison the relationship to their very own parent.
So it’s important to always talk about any missed or late drop-offs or exchanges with your kids. Mention how you’re sorry you’re a bit late, and the reason. If you’re gone for a weekend or more, let them know ahead of time, and also address it when you see them again. Ask them directly, “You haven’t waited at all where I didn’t show up, have you?”
You’ve got to be assertive but calm with issues like this involving your brainwashed children. Once your ex pulls this harmful maneuver, you also need to tell your children this:
“Son, if you ever show up and I’m not there at all, know that there’s a misunderstanding or a missed phone call or something. As I would never not pick you up unless it was something big or was a big misunderstanding.”
And if your children have a cellphone, instruct them to text or call you if they are ever waiting and it seems that you won’t show up.
Remember, you need to be assertive in these matters around your kids when they’re in the midst of a brainwashing campaign.
When your child is dropped off with your ex following your weekend or other multi-day visitation, a brainwashing parent will usually give your kid(s) a post-visitation “shakedown”.
The goal of the parent doing this is to extract all the details, looking for those that put the other parent in bad light.
The poor child knows the parent wants to hear only the bad (nevermind that he/she just learned how to, say, ride a bike for the first time during this visit). So the child states the case the alienating parent wants to hear, often exaggerating or even lying.
How do you combat this? You can’t, mainly because you know it’s going on but you can’t prove it. Moreover, you simply can’t control the other parent’s behavior. So what you do is not think about the “shakedown” event. As long as you’re being the best parent you can be and do not engage in the awful behaviors the alienating parent is, you’ll come out fine in the end. And the child will remember the campaign against you eventually, and how fraudulent it was.
This, in turn, turns into the brainwashing boomerang.
It’s a shame what parents will do following a child’s time with a parent. The attempt to strip the bonding moments down and label them something different is without question child abuse.
I’m experiencing in my case severe programming in a desperate attempt to sever my son’s relationship with me. One of the things my son’s mother does is place him into counseling after every father-son time we have. That’s right, usually the very next Monday or Tuesday after the Sunday evening exchange he is placed into child therapy. This has been going on for many months now.
It’s very frustrating to see my 9-year-old son go from a highly enjoyable visit with me (my tactics in fighting back the brainwashing are slowly working, thank God), to being dropped into counseling.
I set myself an appointment with the child therapist a day after my son was placed there, and the therapist said there were no issues in my son’s nearly 3 weeks with me.
So why was he brought in? Counselor couldn’t answer.
I believe that his mother thinks that time with me is harmful to him, that my being in his life is harmful to him, and that the way to “recover” from the awfulness of spending time with a (unwilling to be acknowledged by her) loving father is to get help from a therapist.
Unfortunately in my case the therapist is completely clueless to the brainwashing mother is doing– so clueless that he denies any active brainwashing is going on! Just some “influencing” in my son’s mind. By whom? I ask? “Perhaps a parent”… Please… This after the countless stories I’ve told him and the video and audio tape showing my son’s anguish. It’s a “he said; she said” thing according to him.
When an ex places your child in counseling after nearly every visit with you, what message is that sending the child? That being with you is not a normal, OK thing. That obviously something not good or harmful certainly happened to the child during that time.
If this happens to you, you need to be assertive in standing up to the child therapist on what exactly it is he or she is treating. See what codes are being documented on the billing to the insurance company. Sit in on sessions like I have, and take good notes. There are many incompetent child therapists out there.
In my case, the therapist didn’t have much to say, and even prevented me from seeing the progress notes when I asked to see them– he needed to see legal proof of my rights to see them. Can you imagine any divorce decree where a parent is specifically denied access to medical records? Amazing.
My battle is just beginning with that incompetent child therapist. Never assume that a therapist knows what he/she is doing and isn’t aligning with one parent over the other. Get your own trusted child therapist always.
Parents who view visitation with the other parent as something that’s a necessary evil often count down not only the days in front of their child, but hours too.
If a parent says to the child “Honey, I miss you so much, only 40 hours until I see you,” what is that telling them?
First, it tells them that there’s a mental clock counting town the time until “freedom” occurs. Until the misery of having to be with the other parent is over. It’s simply not healthy for parents to use such countdowns.
My son’s mother does this. Just yesterday it was “40 hours.” Not 2 days, mind you. 40 hours.
What she should be doing is asking him what he’s doing, to support those things, and then say “have a blast tomorrow, I’ll talk to you then.” Period.
So if your child mentions “only 35 hours until I see Mom,” you know what’s going on the the parent’s mind.
There will be situations when your ex will demand that he/she be allowed to appear at an event, or else the child won’t be allowed to come.
Last week my nephew was prevented from accepting a trophy at an awards banquet simply because his Dad wasn’t allowed to attend (Dad is involved in a highly toxic divorce with my sister).
Dad said that if he’s not allowed to attend, then his son won’t be there, either. And that’s what happened: I, as the uncle, was there to see the trophy, while my nephew sat at home because Dad was punishing his ex.
Yet never mind the punishment meted out on his own son– preventing him from the thrill of accepting a trophy won in a horse riding competition.
This is just another form of using children as a pawn, and it happens too often in separations and divorces. Instead of doing what’s best for the children in all instances, bitter ex’s lash out, and damage their kids in the process.
I’ve experienced this now several times, so it’s time to expose it to other parents.
When your child is with you but talking on the phone to their other parent, one tool the parent uses to lessen the value of your child’s visitation at your home is to tell them great stuff that awaits them back home.
The past two visits, my son has been reminded of both a horse purchase and a fish tank purchase. “Aren’t you excited to come back and see your new horse?” “This aquarium is so amazing, don’t you wish you could see it?”
You’ll see other variations such as:
1. Parent telling the child that he missed his friend’s birthday party, or some other function
2. Parent telling the child how much he’s missed, multiple times, to make the child feel rx generic viagra guilty about being away
3. Parent acting as though the stay is terrible for the child, saying things like “everything will be alright, Charlie, you’ll be home in just two days and things will be fine again.”
Tips to combat this pointless behavior from the parent who’s lashing out?
Have a normal, fun time with your kids. At the end of every day of your visitation ask them, “What did you enjoy doing most today?” And take a few pictures and videos every day. Post them online, or somewhere that the child can see them. Make the actions memorable, which will be far more powerful than the other parent pulling down the child’s enjoyment with you using words.
In today’s computer age, there are some very cool, innovative ways to stay in contact with your child who’s living with your ex. So when you can’t be there in person, here is a quick rundown of the top 7:
1. Telephone/cellphone (directly speaking to child)
2. Telephone/cellphone (leaving a nice message when unable to speak to child)
3. Email (kids start using it as young as 4-5 years of age)
4. Text messaging, or text messaging apps like Whats App or Viber
5. Skype video conferencing (both computers must have the software, but the video chat is free. Great for long distances)
6. Send postcards (or better yet– personalized cards where you can draw funny things or make longer comments)
7. Send letters (timeless)
When you have your kid for your visitation time, oftentimes the other parent knows he/she has only one way of brainwashing your kid during those days. The tool used?
The alienating parent will try one or several of the following tactics:
1. Keep the child on the phone for a long time
2. Inquire in a negative spirit how the visit is going. Instead of “tell me what you did today,” the sentiment more like “Are you doing OK?” “How much do you miss me?”
3. Tell the child about a big surprise awaiting him/her upon their return
4. Tell the child how much the parent misses them, that the time apart is very difficult