Nobody Owns Children
"He is not going to do that with MY children."
"MY son does not like to visit with my ex-wife."
"I enrolled MY daughter in that daycare, and I don't care what he thinks about it."
Mine, mine, mine. Sound familiar? If you have a child over the age of about 18 months, I'm sure you've gone through a period of "MINE!" with your child. Possessiveness and selfishness is normal for a two-year-old. It should not be normal for adults who are raising a child together.
At least once a week, I hear a parent during court or a consultation refer to MY CHILD, as though the child had sprung spontaneously from that parent's forehead without the involvement of a second parent. Although rare exceptions exist, the VAST majority of children have at least two parents. It's not MY CHILD. It is OUR CHILD, and as long as the other parent is not a safety risk (drug addict, sex offender, child abuser, etc.), we need to SHARE in the raising of the child. That is what is best for the child...and if you haven't noticed from reading my blog, that's all the court really cares about in a custody case.
I am serious. Nobody owns children. Children are not physical possessions; they are people with emotions, personalities, and agency. This is a simple truth, but it escapes a lot of people. At least once a month, I have to explain to a parent (usually a mother) that the other parent will probably get substantial parenting time with the child unless there is a real safety risk, and I further explain why that is a good thing for all involved. Occasionally, I get pushback when I state, clearly and simply, that "nobody owns a child." The most outrageous instance I can think of is the father who insisted, "I pay for everything, so I definitely own my daughter more than she does."
No. People don't own other people. Slavery has been abolished in this country.
Letting go of the sense of ownership over children is important to success in a custody dispute. Courts are impatient with and sometimes outright hostile to parents who think they "own" the children...and they should be. Feelings of ownership lead to unjustified withholding of the child from the other parent, or pushing the other parent out of the child's life altogether...neither of which, whether intentional or unintentional, is healthy for the child's psychological development.
It always amazes me that two people who liked each other well enough to make a child in the first place can be so hostile to one another's involvement with the child later. Neither parent owns a child. Involvement in a child's upbringing is both a right and a privilege, and for the child's sake, we should share rather than strive to possess.
(Note: the issue of whether parents should share at least some time with the child is different than the issue of whether equal parenting time or something approaching it would be appropriate for a particular child. It doesn't surprise me when a parent feels equal parenting time is inappropriate in their circumstances. However, every parent who goes to court in Tennessee, unless there is a safety risk, will get at least some time with a child, and it is likely to be unsupervised time. The parents who object to this fact are the ones who blow my mind.)