In the world of family law, there’s a widely known term, Disneyland Dad, or Mom, in custody disputes. This term refers to the noncustodial parent who makes their time with the child more fun for the child. The term implies that their motives for doing this are to persuade or influence the child towards them over the other. This usually creates problems for the custodial parent who must “compete” with them.
What Qualifies as Disneyland Dad or Mom?
A noncustodial parent does things to gain their child’s affection in several ways. These include buying them expensive gifts, letting them have longer curfews, allowing them to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Basically, the noncustodial parent will purposely give the child things the other parent afford or allow them to do things the other parent does not. Their intention is clearly to be seen as the more likable or “cool” parent. Oftentimes the Disneyland parent goes out of their way to treat their child as their friend or peer instead of a child. They also employ other friends, significant others and/or family members to help them overextend their level of kindness.
The parent who does this is usually motivated by their own selfishness. Because if they were concerned about their children, they would respect the boundaries imposed by the custodial parent.
Some Disneyland parents merely use these tactics as a means to be vindicated for being absent or abusive during the child’s life. On the other hand, the narcissistic noncustodial parents’ motives are different. Their motives are usually control, manipulation, and vindictiveness. In these instances, there is no sound basis or justification for the behaviors.
How Does being a Disneyland Dad or Mom Impact the Best Interests Factors?
The best interests factors for each state varies. Some states put more emphasis on certain issues than others. Not to mention, some states put to give more consideration to some factors than others. The best interests factors require the court to look at them in order to decide what’s for the child’s wellbeing. The child’s mental, emotional, physical, and intellectual well-being are the underlying concerns in every case.
How the Disneyland parent’s behaviors get factored into custody determinations depends on these two things: the actual factors and how their behavior directly tie in and how their behavior affects the overall custody disputes. The former is a direct application of the court’s standards, while the latter is indirect. Both perspectives certainly have an impact on child custody cases, but for different reasons.
Applying the Best Interests Factors to Disneyland Dad or Mom
First, let’s look at Disneyland Dad or Mom and the best interests factors overall. The issues that come into play are the parent’s refusal, or inability, to set and maintain boundaries. This can certainly raise concerns with respect to the child’s mental, as well as physical, wellbeing. Mental well-being emphasizes the parent’s responsibility to ensure that the child develops into adulthood in a way that is adaptable. In other words, preparing them for growing up with the tools they need to maintain relationships, employment, Etc. Although parents want to ensure their children are happy, they should balance this intention with maintaining safe boundaries.
A. Factors Directly Related to Coparenting-
Next, the Disneyland Dad or Mom’s own mental or emotional health can be called into question under the best interests application. The parent’s health, particularly their mental health, is often made obvious by their actions. Their decision to manipulate their children in this way certainly calls attention to their mental health.
Another factor that might be triggered by the behaviors of the Disneyland Dad or Mom is the one that examines each parent’s ability to maintain or facilitate a meaningful relationship with the other. When one parent is intentionally ignoring or violating boundaries set by the other, it is obvious that they don’t care about maintaining a healthy parenting or co-parenting relationship.
And last, financial stability or standard of home environment also come into play with Disneyland Dad or Mom situations. This is a huge concern when there is an imbalance in financial resources between the two parent’s homes. The Disneyland parent usually has more resources and is able to shower the kids with gifts. Alternatively, the Disneyland parent might have more free time, making them more able to do “fun” things with the children. Either way, having more of what the child wants makes it hard to challenge this factor when the other parent doesn’t have the luxury.
B. Factors Directly to the Parent-Child Relationship
Another factor that can impact the Disneyland Dad or Mom’s choice to act this way is the child’s preference to live with either parent. Clearly, their intention is to persuade or influence the child, and most times they are successful. Successful enough to influence the child’s choice about who they prefer to live with. Of course, younger children don’t really have much say, but this certainly applies to the older ones.
And last, the relationship between the parent and child is most definitely a factor too. The courts inherently look at the bond between each parent and their child(ren) when deciding custody. And when the bond is strained or strengthened by deliberate acts of the other, there is cause for concern.
How to Defend against a Disneyland Dad or Mom in Custody Disputes?
There are several things you can do to defend against parents who use their resources to intentionally influence your child. And although there are practical, moral, and emotional implications, you should try to focus on what you can control. You can’t control the other parent’s behavior, nor can the courts actually, but you have some control over your children.
You need to work at ensuring your children receive the time and attention you have. This means that you are not competing with the other parent. You should use the time you have with your children in a meaningful way. Instead of focusing on the things the other parent did or bought, for example, you redirect your children to what you are doing with them.
In court, you can focus on the specific best-interests factors that are in your favor. You are a good parent merely because you are fighting to be a parent. You might not be the “best” parent, but you most certainly are just as “fit” as the other parent. Use those “fit” factors to your advantage. No one scores high on all factors, if they did they would not be in custody disputes.
Don’t accept defeat in the custody disputes by being up against a Disneyland Dad or Mom. You can work with what you have and still be acknowledged for being a “good” parent.