Now I lay me down to sleep, but Dad’s new girlfriend is a creep. Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” helps people differentiate between needs and wants, and to make clear that some needs are basic and biological: food, water, safety, warmth, and rest. We may want a separate bedroom for our visiting children to get their rest, but is it needed?
What the Law Requires for Overnight Visitation
Legally, no Virginia law compels a divorced parent to provide a particular sleeping arrangement for a child visiting overnight. Please read that carefully: no law compels it, but a Virginia judge might. Why? A judge presiding over child custody and visitation cases has wide latitude to invite expert testimony and opinion, including social workers, psychologists, school personnel, and just about anyone whose professional view could influence decisions about kids.
Most judges will grant parents plenty of wiggle room on overnight arrangements, short of condoning sleeping in cars in mall parking lots. If a temporary arrangement involves a pup tent in the living room, fine; but at some time in the future, the judge will want to know you provided a more permanent place for Junior to bed down.
Psychologically, all of those experts we mentioned above will tell you that a child needs a place to call her or his own. This is not only a biological need under Maslow’s Hierarchy, it is an important psychological need. Ranking just above those biological imperatives and safety issues are these two psychological ones:
- Belongingness and love — Intimate relationships, strong family ties, friends, feeling loved
- Esteem — Prestige, a feeling of accomplishment, self-respect
Why are refrigerators every family’s informal art gallery? Because your child wants to see that you value her artistic crayon drawings. You boost her self-esteem and reinforce her sense of belonging when you use the Luray Caverns magnet to hold the gawdawful finger paint-on-newsprint masterpiece. You fulfill several of her needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Providing a bedroom shows you respect your child as an individual, you want your child to have privacy, and your house is your kid’s home, even if only for a weekend per month.
Could you fit everything you own into a backpack? Then why are you asking your children to do that? A room of their own at your place provides them with walls to decorate, furniture to build into forts, and comfy beds that are exclusively theirs.
Here’s a tip to get you on track: As the non-custodial parent, outfit and decorate your home as if you had full custody:
- Step stool in the bathroom
- Places for toys and electronics
- Photos of the kids on mantelpieces and end tables
- Stuffed animals and PS5 game system in the living room
You don’t need the custodial spouse to lend a toothbrush, or send over a favorite book. You have a second copy of that beloved bedtime story right there, on the nightstand. In your child’s bedroom.
Providing a Space When Money Is Tight
The ideal of a bedroom for every child is just not feasible for many Virginia non-custodial Dads. The budget for your single-Dad pad may not allow for even two bedrooms, let alone three or four.
Money can be tight in separation and divorce. Show a judge a good-faith effort to pay child support, spousal support, and still provide a terrific, temporary home for your kids:
- Every kid, regardless of rooms, has her or his own bed
- Be willing to sleep on the floor if it means Little Lucy can sleep comfortably in your bed
- Replace the living room couch with a pullout sofa
- Keep the bathroom sparkling clean
- Keep the refrigerator stocked with healthy, welcome foods
Experts at VeryWell Family outline a few realities every judge keeps in mind:
- The children’s ages and genders
- The number of children
- The parent’s financial, emotional, and physical circumstances
- The child’s ability to adjust to change
- The child’s safety
Judges have given the thumbs up to extremely modest arrangements because they see hard-working, non-custodial parents making genuine efforts to provide as best they can.
Non-custodial Virginia Dads who are successful with child visitation put their kids’ needs above their own. That concept is enshrined in the Code of Virginia, as “Best Interests of the Child.” So, keep Dad’s new girlfriend out of the picture for a while, spend money on what your visiting kids want, and strive to make your Dad pad as kid-friendly as possible.
The Firm For Men is ready to listen to you, offer you practical advice on your family law matter, and guide your decisions with child custody and visitation. Contact us online today or telephone our office at (757) 383-9184.