Shared or joint custody occurs when a court awards both parents the care and guardianship of a child in a divorce. Typically, the child will divide his or her time between the two parents’ homes. Once you and your ex have been awarded joint custody of your children, it can be tricky to figure out the logistics. Coordinating your schedules, deciding what’s going to happen with holidays and special occasions, and even transporting the kids between different houses isn’t always easy, especially if you’re trying to come to an agreement with somebody that you don’t particularly get on with anymore.
But the good news is that according to psychologists, children who grow up in shared custody can easily thrive when both parents are cooperative, in agreement, able to manage their emotions, and respectful. Here are some rules to live by if you are sharing child custody with your ex.
Speak Kindly of the Other Parent
Experts agree that speaking poorly about your ex to or in front of your child should be completely avoided in a shared custody situation. Badmouthing your ex, no matter what has happened between the two of you, is going to be internalised by your child. And what you say about your ex will affect them as they might even begin to think that about themselves, since they are made up of both of you. Even if you are annoyed with your ex, remember that they are still your child’s parent, and your child loves them. If you are worried that your child is not happy with your current shared custody agreement, family solicitors can help you come to a more suitable arrangement. If it’s gotten to this stage, you can search for solicitors here and easily find a family law solicitor who can give you the necessary legal advice.
Put the Kids First
The divorce might have been about you and your ex, but custody is all about making sure that your kids continue to live a happy and fulfilled life with separated parents. Divorce or separation can often cause some tunnel vision emotionally, and it’s not uncommon for people to become super-focused on their own hurts and needs. However, it’s important that you avoid letting this take over and make sure that your priority is ensuring that you create a good childhood for your kids regardless of the circumstances. Custody isn’t about getting what you want, but rather about what’s best for your child, so it’s important to be ready to make sacrifices for their sake if needed.
Parents can often make unrealistic custody demands during a divorce or separation, based on their own insecurities or fears. Instead, the best way to go about things is to be realistic about your own commitments and your schedule, remove your emotions from the situation and keep the facts at the forefront of your mind. It can be helpful to view custody as more of a business arrangement than an emotional one.
Customise the Experience for Your Kids
No two custody arrangements are created equally and you might find that what works well for your friends or relatives might not be the best way forward for you. When you decide on a custody arrangement, you will need to consider a number of factors including your children’s ages and personalities, the family schedule, each parent’s career demands, and social commitments, any extracurricular or academic activities that your children attend, current childcare arrangements, and the distance between the homes of both parents. Generally, infants will remain in the primary care of the mothers, but older children tend to benefit more from making frequent transitions between both households as it allows them to spend an equal amount of time with each parent. As kids get older, many parents find it useful to stick to an alternate week plan.
Remember that Bad Spouses Aren’t Always Bad Parents
Your ex-spouse might not have been the nicest of people to be married to, and they may have even done things that were terrible in a marriage, but bear in mind that this doesn’t mean that they are going to be a bad parent. In fact, it’s worth remembering that just because somebody was a bad spouse, it’s still very possible that they can be an amazing parent. Your marriage might not have worked out, but this isn’t a reason to worry that your joint parenting arrangement won’t succeed. Remember that when your children are with your ex, they are with the one other person in the world who cares about them and loves them just as much as you do.
Communication is Key
In order to make joint child custody work, communication is absolutely key. And even though talking to your ex might be the last thing that you want to do if your marriage or relationship didn’t end so well, it’s important to find a communication method that works well for you both, for the sake of your kids – and your sanity. The good news is that these days, there are plenty of tools that you can use to organise custody arrangements easily without having to go out of your way to meet your ex face-to-face. There are apps that you can both use to coordinate your calendars and schedules, and texts and emails give parents the ability to communicate with one another and make plans quickly.
Pick Your Battles
Let’s face it; parenting can be hard enough on its own and co-parenting with an ex you don’t get on with very well can make it even more complex. Open communication can help you avoid conflict, but if disagreements arise, consider whether it’s really worth fighting over. Pick your battles; it’s usually only worth fighting over the things that are worth it like holidays, school choices and parenting time. Most other things are not worth getting into an argument about, and sometimes the best thing that you can do for everybody involved is just let it go.
Co-parenting in a joint custody agreement with your ex is not always easy, so keep these rules in mind to make it a more pleasant and amicable experience for everybody involved.