Maryland parents who are preparing for a child custody case should take the time to consider how their relationship with their child is defined. When families are intact, both parents often share in the duties of creating and enforcing the rules by which their children live. Once a divorce has taken place, it is not uncommon for one or both parents to begin making an effort to achieve a position of "favorite parent" with their kids. This is a flawed approach, and it is usually not in the best interest of the child or children.
Wanting to be liked and loved is a natural drive, and it is understandable that parents want to shower their kids with love and attention during a time of turmoil, such as divorce. However, setting aside the established rules or allowing behavior that would not have been previously acceptable does not help kids experience the structure and discipline that they need. In some cases, trying to position oneself as the "favorite" can actually backfire in family court.
Consider, for example, a parent who is making great efforts to connect with her child following a divorce. She might relax the rules surrounding curfews, household chores and expectations surrounding appropriate behavior. Feeling that a looser discipline structure will make her kids "like" her more than they do her father, she allows things to take place that would not normally be tolerated.
If her former husband decides to approach the court to ask for a change in custody, he could make a compelling argument that the mother has allowed her kids to gain an undue level of power within her home. He might point out that under his care, the kids have guidance and structure, while things are far more free-flowing at their mother's house. A family court judge could determine that the environment at the father's home is more conducive to raising kids who are well-balanced. For those in Maryland who are worried about whether they are the "favorite" parent, it is important to remember that a child's preferences are not as important in the eyes of the court as is the best interest of the child.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, "Avoiding the "Most Popular Parent" contest in custody cases", Patra A. Sinner, April 6, 2016