Every child of divorced parents loves to be showered with gifts and fun activities when the noncustodial parent shows up for scheduled visitation time. The kids’ eyes light up when they see presents in the car, and they can barely handle their excitement when the parent says that he’s taking the kids to Disney World!

Disney Parent Syndrome is when a noncustodial parent only takes part in the fun stuff and leaves the discipline to the other parent. It's commonly called 'Disney Dad Syndrome' because fathers have traditionally been the noncustodial parents.

What is a Disney Dad?

A guest post on the National Center for Fathering website by Scott Moore of Building a Better Dad defines a Disney Dad as a “non-custodial parent who indulges his or her child with gifts and good times during visitation and leaves most or all disciplinary responsibilities to the other parent.”

Disney Dad Syndrome might be intentional in some cases, though it's usually unintentional, as Moore thoroughly explains. Noncustodial parents have limited time to spend with the children, and would rather use that time to do fun things than to do chores and homework. And he points out that visitation time is usually on weekends and holidays when – even in households with married parents – is often a time to relax and have fun.

What’s Wrong with Being a Disney Dad?

If you're the "fun one" and the other parent is the "mean one" tasked with making sure they get their homework done, do their chores, and go to bed on time, the children may start to view the other parent in a somewhat negative light. This might affect the child's relationship with the other parent, especially if the children complains that they'd rather be with you, the fun parent.

Falling victim to Disney Dad Syndrome also shirks your responsibilities as a parent to teach the child, set boundaries, and enact punishments when necessary. Participating in the nitty-gritty part of parenting can ultimately help the child develop healthy relationships with both parents, even if it might be more fun to spend visitation seeing movies, staying up late, and eating junk food.

Avoid Being a Disney Dad

There are certain steps you can take to avoid being a Disney Dad. For one, you may seek additional time with the children. It's best to do this when creating a parenting plan, but child custody modifications may also be possible. Bring this up with the other parent, but if you plan to make changes, make sure you go through the court to get a court order.

The added time can provide opportunities to spend more time with the kids, during which you could begin to take a larger role in day-to-day parenting.

If the custody plan is going to stay the same, you can still avoid Disney Dad Syndrome by doing the following.

  • Setting rules
  • Making a routine schedule for when the kids visit
  • Coordinating discipline with the other parent

For example, if the other parent punished the child, make sure you continue that punishment while the child visits you. Setting up a parenting plan after divorce can help both parents – and the kids – get on the same page.

Do You Need Family Law Help? Call Our Bellevue Law Office

Contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today if you need legal representation for matters related to divorce, child custody, visitation, or court order modifications. We are happy to provide you with legal advice and help. You can reach us by calling 425-460-0550.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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