Coparenting Issues: He won’t take 50% of the parenting time

Posted on May 31, 2024 by Katie Carter


Question: My child’s father and I had a baby 18 months ago.  We still live together, but we’re not romantically involved.  We will never get back together.  (Like, ever.)  I’d like to move out, so I’m considering consulting an attorney about custody and visitation.  I’m worried I’m gearing up for a huge custody battle. We both work full time; he also works some weekends.  He won’t pay child support, so I need to put him on that.  I keep telling him that I work, too, and I need him to take our daughter sometimes, but he won’t.  He says he has to work on the weekends.  I’m parenting almost 100% of the time and I’m exhausted.  I need the court to order him to take his time, too.


This is a super tough question.  Well, let me take that back: the child support part is easy.  You can file for custody, visitation, and/or child support at the juvenile court (this is where you would file, since this is not part of a larger divorce action).  Based on his income and your income, guideline child support would be awarded and it could even be awarded back retroactively to the date that you filed.

As far as things go, child support is super easy.  As long as he has income to show – and isn’t doing shady stuff working on the side or for cash under the table – it’s relatively straightforward.  (If he is, you may want to talk to an attorney instead of doing it yourself.)

But as far as parenting time, things aren’t so simple.

Usually, when we think of a custody battle, we’re talking about parents who are each fighting for MORE time with the kids.  I have literally never represented anyone in a case where both sides argued that they wanted LESS time, which is what this amounts to.  From what I gather, you’re saying you want less (or you want him to step up and take more), and he’s saying no (allegedly, because his work schedule prevents him).

In the meantime, you’ve been doing all the care.  He is not.

I … don’t know how to say this, but I don’t think the court is going to award him parenting time that he goes into court and says that he cannot take and does not want.  The court can’t really force you to pick up the slack, either, but then again – what else can you do?  (Obviously, nothing: because this is what you’ve been doing, and that’s where the problem begins and ends, right?)

I get it.  Parenting is the hardest work.  Everyone tells you how hard it is and yet, all the same, literally nothing can ever prepare you for it.  It’s unrelenting.  It can be awful.

But … the court can’t make a good dad or a good man out of someone who isn’t a very good dad or a very good man.  He may not be horrible or abusive, but we can’t force him to step up.  Which means that either you have to do it, or we need to work something else out.

What other child custody options do I have?  I’m going insane!

The only option that immediately springs to mind for me is more childcare.  I know: it’s not a perfect solution.  And it costs money.  And right now, you’re not even getting support.

But, like I said, the support thing is easy to resolve.  And one of the factors that goes into a child support calculation is how much work-related childcare is necessary.  Generally speaking, when I see a really high award of child support, its because there are a lot of childcare costs (either that, or the parties already have a super high income).  Childcare is expensive.  And if you need it to work, it goes into the calculation and increases the amount of child support that is paid.

So, in that sense, you can afford it a little bit better because you have child support and the child support that you receive is based on the childcare need that you have.  If you’re unable to take as much of the parenting time as you have and its impacting your work, this – to me – seems like an obvious solution.

He could lower his child support obligation, on the other hand, by taking more of the parenting time himself (and essentially removing the child from childcare).  But that part is on him.

Do you have support from people other than dad?

You know what they say – it takes a village!  And, for people who have a village, that is both true and an incredible benefit.

If you have a mom, or an aunt, or a family friend – or even HIS family, if they don’t suck – who is willing to take some time with the child, that could be somewhere you turn for support as well.  Hey, there are no rules here!  We all ask for help from others from time to time.

It may be that you don’t have access to that kind of support.  I get it.  Especially if you’re not from around here or if you never had a solid family background to begin with, it can be difficult to find others to depend on when it comes to raising your own child.  It may not be an option for you.  But if it is, then maybe its time to enlist some of that support.

This isn’t a custody battle.

There isn’t a perfect solution here, but this also isn’t a custody battle.  The court won’t force either of you – CAN’T force either of you, is really probably more to the point – to take parenting time that you don’t want to take.  But the alternative to parents caring for a child is foster care.

I know, I know – you won’t let it get to that point.  You’re just saying that you’re angry and resentful that you’re automatically the default parent, no matter what it costs you personally and professionally, while he goes on living like nothing else has changed.

But this isn’t a custody battle.  It’s not fair.  But it’s not a custody battle.

It may be worth looking into a custody agreement where he formally agrees to take on a certain amount of the childcare – at least, on a schedule that he can agree to and in a way that he feels like he can participate.  Again, if he doesn’t follow the agreement (as in, he doesn’t exercise the parenting time), there’s not a lot we can do to make him.  But it may be worth trying to get his buy in and find ways for him to take some parenting time that works for him.

But he may also just be a deadbeat.

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