One of the biggest nightmares for a child could be an impractical joint custody arrangement. Imagine you’re a child and you just had your world rocked by the divorce of your parents. Now, here comes a landscape where you are constantly being shuttled back and forth between two different houses, holidays have turned incredibly awkward, and you constantly wonder which parent is coming to your soccer game or school play.
It’s tough. As parents, we never want to see our children in an uncomfortable or sad space. So, when we are working through a joint custody decision, we need to take some extra precautions to make the joint custody work for our kids.
Let’s examine some of the ways that clinical psychologists and attorneys say can ease the stress of joint custody on the children.
It’s Not About You; It’s All About Them
The divorce was about you and your spouse. The custody is about the children. Let’s speak frankly: you’re not ever going to get an exact 50-50 split on anything with your ex, and you’re not going to get everything you want in a custody decision, either.
If you’re looking at custody as a way to put another notch on your divorce win belt, you’ve got this all wrong.
When you’re thinking about the actual living arrangements, or designing the weekly schedule, try not to let your needs and emotions take precedence. This is all about your children’s needs. Remember that the younger the child, the more they will benefit from seeing each parent on a regular basis.
Don’t Speak Bad About Your Ex
You may have wanted to sprinkle holy water and call a priest for your ex-spouse, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a good parent. It’s really important for the children to have regular contact with both parents. At the end of the day, your former spouse loves your children just as much as you do. Remember, it’s all about the children’s needs.
To this end, it is not a good idea to badmouth your ex in front of the children. Regardless of what has happened in the divorce, your children still love both parents. If you talk bad about your ex, then the children will be put in a position to have to take sides. Out of love, they don’t want to do that. Keep your bad thoughts to yourself.
Listen To Your Children
A joint custody arrangement can often make a child feel powerless. There will be a lot of emotions for them as they try to make the best of an awkward situation. It’s important to listen to your children, and give them ways that they can feel like they have some control over the situation.
For younger children, simply giving them more choices in routine activities (“you choose what you want for breakfast”) is an easy way to do this. For teenagers, actively including them in scheduling decisions can give them an opportunity to offer input.
Pick Your Battles
Just because a decision didn’t go your way is not cause to take your case back to court. Ask yourself how important the issue really is. The general rule of thumb is if you involve a judge, neither party is going to get what they want.
It’s vital to have an attorney that you can run ideas past when things get harried. A caring, knowledgeable family attorney can help you decide the best course of action on many decisions, as well as telling you which battles to fight or let go of.
If you’re in Clayton, Henry, or another metro Atlanta county, the Family Matters Law Group is ready to help you navigate the ins and outs of your joint custody decision. Let us know how we can be of service through our convenient online contact form.
Remember: if you want to make joint custody work for the kids, the kids always come first.