Sharing custody after divorce is potentially the best option for everyone involved. The parents will both still get a hand in raising the children, the children get to continue to live with both parents, and everyone is potentially happier. However, joint custody is often easier said than done.
How do you know if joint custody is a realistic expectation for your family after divorce? What are some of the possible benefits? And what are some good guidelines for practicing joint custody?
Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney. I can only speak from personal experience and prior research. If you’re struggling with these issues, or wondering about legalities, perhaps it’s time to consult a divorce lawyer for child custody considerations.
Is Joint Custody Right for your Family?
How do you know if joint custody will work for your family? Well, here are some of the indicators that it’s a strong possibility:
1) You and your ex live near one another
This is the first crucial factor in joint custody. Parents must live near one another to be able to give the children a stable life and development. Children should still be able to go to the same schools, attend the same extracurricular activities, and overall continue living much the same life.
The necessity of this cannot be overemphasized. Parents considering joint custody need to live near enough to one another to provide a stable and uninterrupted life. Otherwise there’s too much risk of the children suffering.
It should be noted that there’s still the possibility of children living with the father during summers. This is a completely separate type of joint custody, however.
2) You and your ex both respect each other’s involvement in your children’s lives
The child benefits from both the Mother and Father being involved in their lives. Both parents understanding and accepting this is crucial for joint custody to work. Otherwise there will be too much conflict and tension throughout the arrangement.
3) The parents are able to cooperate and communicate in a reasonable manner
Again, the parents should be able to get along well enough to be able to communicate with one another. As both parents will be playing a critical role in the child’s upbringing they need to be able to communicate and coordinate their effort in the joint upbringing.
4) You agree to never fight in front of the children
Fighting with your ex during joint custody is nearly unavoidable. There’s too much history and—let’s admit it—hurt feelings to be able to do such a difficult task as raise children together. Despite this, you need to both agree never to fight or argue in front of the children, and never involve them in the disputes. Otherwise joint custody is likely counterproductive, and is more harmful than helpful.
Joint Custody Benefits
Joint custody has a multitude of benefits. These include more paternal involvement, decreased risk of financial problems, shared responsibility, and increased child happiness and resistance to the negative effects of divorce.
Joint custody has been proven to increase paternal involvement in raising children. Obviously this is only natural as the father gets increased time and interaction with the children. Furthermore, it has been shown that paternal involvement can pay a critical role in the raising of children. For example, see this study. To summarize a piece of the study:
Children raised without fathers are:
- 70% of kids incarcerated
- Twice as likely to quit school
- 80% of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals
- 90% of runaways
As you can see, having a father around can be a huge benefit. One that is, perhaps, underappreciated.
Financial troubles—due to lack of child support payments—are also considerably less likely under joint custody. The father is around to bear some of the financial burdens, and because he is connected to the family still he’s less likely to default on any payments.
Last but not least, the children themselves benefit. They are less likely to feel unloved after the divorce since they still frequently interact with both parents. Also, since one parent isn’t in effect disappearing, they’re less likely to be afraid after the divorce. Furthermore learning to live with both parents teaches them flexibility and the ability to adapt.
General Guidelines and Rules
Any recently divorced parents who decide to share the kids after divorce should set up a few ground rules and general guidelines which both parents agree on. This will not only make everything smoother but protect the children as well incase conflict arises. Some good guidelines are:
- No fighting or arguing in front of the children
- No using the children to pass along messages
- Never discuss child support issues in front of the children
- No badmouthing the other parent to the children
- No forcing the children to choose sides
- Never include the children in any debate or argument
- No using the children to spy on the other parent – “Did __ have a date? Seeing anyone?”
Following these ground rules—even just sitting down and agreeing to general guidelines—can really help everyone out in the long run. So even though it might be hard, make sure you communicate with your ex if you’re considering joint custody. If only for the sake of the children.
Hopefully this guideline helps ease divorce and custody issues, and makes moving forward, in the direction appropriate for you, a little easier.
Author Bio: lan Brady is a passionate blogger who loves to share his personal experiences concerning divorce, his daughters, and being a single parent. Blogging about divorce greatly helped him comes to terms with his divorce and life afterward.