7 Rules To Making Joint Custody Work After Divorce by Amy Sara Cores
For parents who are divorcing, child custody issues are usually front and center. There are many decisions to make like: Do I want sole custody or should we opt for joint custody?
Below are important terms to understand while making decisions on child custody:
This is the right of the parent to have his/her children live with him/her after the divorce. This right may be shared jointly by both parents or it may be awarded to only one of the parents in a sole custody agreement.
Joint Physical Custody
This is what the courts normally prefer to award in order to ensure that the children will keep contact with both parents. In many states, this is said to be a default order, and may need a dissenting parent to substantiate the need for sole custody.
Joint physical custody is characterized by parents sharing time with the kids. This usually means 50-50, but not always. And, if both parents are not amenable to this setup, the courts may intervene and enforce a schedule.
Joint physical custody allows both of the parents to be vital parts of the lives of their children. A study proves that in low-conflict separations, children are better in joint custody than in sole custody situations.
For those who have decided on joint custody, here are 7 rules to make this situation work after divorce:
1. Don’t Speak evil
Any expert will tell you: Never talk badly about your ex! Speaking poorly about your ex-spouse will greatly affect the children because they are also children of you ex. Anything you say about your ex is what your children will think of themselves. Hence, even if you are terribly angry with your ex-spouse, your children still love him/her. So, keep the bad words to yourself.
2. Pick the proper custody arrangement that accommodates your children’s ages, needs & activities
When thinking of a custody arrangement, you may want to consider the following items:
- The personalities and ages of your children
- The schedule of your family
- The social commitments and careers of each parent
- The academic and extracurricular activities at school in which your children are engaged
- Your childcare agreement and the distance between the homes of the parents
3. A bad spouse is not equal to a bad parent
This is true! Even if your ex was not really a good spouse to you, he/she may be a good parent to your children.
4. Be realistic about your commitments & schedule
During the divorce, some parents make unachievable custody arrangement due to insecurity or fear. Because of this, it is often advised that talking about custody arrangement should be treated as business arrangement. You must remove all your emotions from the case, look at the details and be realistic about what you can handle and what fits best into your life.
5. Find an effective communication method
In order for joint custody to be successful, it is important to communicate effectively. For your children’s sake and for your sanity as well, find a means of communication that works for you and your ex-spouse. Cell phones, emailing, texting or in person conversations are all options, and different forms are appropriate for different situations.
6. Make sure your children feel heard
Your children are experiencing a lot of changes during the divorce. Letting your children express their confusion and other feelings about the divorce and custody agreement can help them have a sense of control in the midst of all those changes.
According to a research, children need to have an involvement in the process, depending of course, on their age. Involving your toddler may mean allowing him/her to choose which toy he/she wants to bring to your ex-spouse’s house. Involving the teens in making a custody arrangement will ensure you that the schedule will complement with their activities at school.
7. Review the arrangement & adjust if needed from time to time
Expect your custody arrangement to change over time, especially as your children get older. With this, it is important to review your custody arrangement from time to time to evaluate if it is still working, or if adjustments need to be made. Remember that you and your spouse have control over your joint custody situation, and if the two of you can come to agreements together, the children are the people who benefit most.
Amy Sara Cores is an attorney at Cores & Associates, L.L.C. a New Jersey-based family law firm dealing with child custody cases. A graduate of Florida State University (FSU), Cores is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and is certified by the Supreme Court of NJ as a Matrimonial Lawyer.