Time Conflict: Can I Go or Is the Answer No?

Whose Time Is It?

It’s the right of the child to spend time and to have a relationship with both parents. For obvious reasons, it’s easier for this to happen when both parents live together and function as a family unit.

When parents live separate and apart from each other, the child’s time is usually divided between both households. There are many different ways that time can be split between two households depending on the circumstances of the family. The child might live with one parent and only be able to spend weekends with the other. When both parents are able to commit their time to day-to-day parenting responsibilities, it’s common for the time to be shared equally on a week on/week off rotation or some other variation.

Children usually have very little control, if any, over the use of their time. Parents or Judges decide which home they sleep at each night. The government dictates that school aged children must receive an education. Parents are required to comply with this requirement. Parents must have an income to support their family. This often means that the child must spend time in childcare so the parents can work. The child must also attend any other necessary appointments like with doctors or dentists. This is another adult decision that children are just along for the ride!

But, what about invitations?

Since the child does not control their time or schedule, this means that they rely on their parents to put them first when invitations roll in or special events pop up. If a parent acts in bad faith by using their control over the time, it is possible for the child to lose quality time with their other parent or to miss out over some other experience.

Friends, family members and third parties do not tend to think about the parenting schedule. A child could be invited to a sleepover or receive an invitation to a birthday party or some other special event. The date was likely set by someone else that did not have an interest or any other reason to consideration the parenting schedule.

In these situations, who gets to decide if the child accepts or declines an invitation?

The root of this dispute is the ownership and control over the child’s time. To put it into perspective, consider this:

  • If given the choice, without interference, would the child want to participate in the activity or accept the invitation?
  • Is it possible to trade weekends to accommodate the special request?
  • Is the child allowed to accept the invitation, without guilt from the parent losing time or without consideration of how to repay “owed” make-up time?
  • If the parent “owed” time received a similar invitation from their friend or family and the child wanted to attend, would the child still “owe” the parent make-up time?

For most invitations to special events, the parents should find a way to make it work and demonstrate flexibility for the benefit of the child. The child should be able to participate in any special or extracurricular activities without anxiety and guilt over the parenting schedule.

Edmonton Family Network has connections to legal service providers and community support services. We help people discover great options for their situation. Email us to learn more.

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