How to Make Joint Custody Work for You, Your Ex, and the Children
It’s hard enough to be a working parent. It’s even more challenging when you’re going through a divorce and trying to develop a plan that works for you, your soon-to-be ex, and, of course, the children. Knowing how to navigate this situation is key to a healthy outcome.
Creating a Mutually Beneficial Child Custody Plan
Joint custody is the ideal scenario in a divorce case. Children need both of their parents, and it’s always nice when parents can get along – even if it’s only for the sake of the kids. But for joint custody to work, you need to develop a plan that’s mutually beneficial.
Here’s some advice on how to do just that:
Get on the Same Page
The first step is to sit down with your spouse and have a cordial, productive conversation. To ensure emotions don’t sidetrack the discussion, focus entirely on the children. Make a list of your short-term and long-term goals, so that you can both get on the same page. Even though you’ll soon be divorced, you’ll forever be co-parents.
Negotiate a Parenting Agreement
The court can mandate child custody terms for you, but it’s much better if you and your spouse can reach an amicable parenting agreement.
“When negotiating a parenting agreement, the key is to craft an arrangement that is practical,” attorney Charles R. Ullman writes. “It should allow both parents to maintain a meaningful and consistent relationship with their child. It can’t be generic. It has to address a family’s unique existing and future needs.”
Feel free to outline the agreement in private, but it’s smart to meet with a child custody attorney to make sure the arrangement promotes the child’s best interests and protects your rights as parents.
Separate Spouse From Parent
You and your spouse may be on bad terms, but remember that the focus is on the children. In fact, the kids are the only ones that really matter in this equation.
It’s crucial that you understand a bad spouse doesn’t equal a bad parent. Your spouse may treat you terribly, yet still be an excellent parent. As difficult as it can be to separate one from the other (in your mind), you have to find a way to do it. Otherwise, you’ll never be at peace with your joint custody agreement.
Discover the Best Method of Communication
Communication is paramount to successful joint custody. If you’re on good terms with your ex, this won’t be super challenging. But if you’re on bad terms, it’s necessary to create some structure and discipline in how and when you communicate with one another.
One helpful tip is to focus on the best method of communication – i.e. the one that results in the least amount of friction. Many co-parents find that text and/or email are ideal for this. Others discover that phone calls are best, as voice conversations are harder to misinterpret.
Pick Your Battles
You won’t agree with everything your ex chooses to do when they have custody of the children, but you have to learn to be okay with the small things. Pick your battles and don’t get caught up in the inconsequential things – such as what they eat for breakfast or whether they brush their teeth before bedtime. There are much bigger fish to fry. Save your energy.
Put the Children First
When you have children, you’re making the declaration that you will put someone else’s life above your own. There are thousands of situations where this comes into play, but it’s particularly evident in a divorce proceeding.
While it’s easy to focus on your comfort, needs, and security, it’s absolutely imperative that you put your children first. With a purposeful joint custody agreement, you can take positive strides towards making this happen.