The facts are clear regarding child custody arrangements: children benefit from substantial and frequent contact with both parents. For this reason, the courts favor joint custody arrangements as long as there aren’t any factors that present a threat of harm to the child (such as substance abuse, child abuse or domestic violence).
To be clear, joint custody refers to both parents sharing the physical care of the child. Each parent will have his or her own household, and the child will travel from one household to the other in a schedule the parents have agreed upon.
Good child custody lawyers point out that the phrase “agreed upon,” is important to keep in mind when living with joint custody. You may not enjoy the interaction with your ex, and you may not be entirely happy with every detail of the agreement, but it is very important to abide by the agreement. A parent who habitually ignores the terms of the agreement is putting himself or herself at risk for a modification to the agreement that curtails or even removes joint custody.
What makes joint custody work? This is generally when both parents:
- Agree it is in the best interest of the child;
- Cooperate with each other and can make decisions together;
- Live fairly near one another to minimize travel time and effort for the whole family;
- Want to be involved in the day-to-day lives of the child.
Often, the most difficult step is coming up with a schedule that works for both parents. Depending on your work schedules, and your child’s school and activities schedule, you might consider custody schedules such alternating weeks, two weeks each, or every weekend (child lives with one parent during the week and the other parent on weekends). Older children may be included in the decision about what works best for them.
There are more complex shared schedules which may be easier to accomplish with young children and are found to be more psychologically beneficial for them:
2-2-3 is when the child lives with one parent for two days, the other parent for two days, and then alternates a 3-day weekend.
2-2-5-5 is when the child lives with one parent for two days, the other parent for two days, then five days with each parent.
3-4-4-3 is when the child lives with one parent for three days, the other parent for four days, and then spends four days with one parent and three days with the other.
Whatever schedule is agreed upon, your family custody attorney and other experts say the following tips will make it work better for your child.
- Do not criticize or belittle the other parent in front of the child.
- Remember that the child loves both of you as parents and needs the involvement of both parents.
- Any inconveniences that you may experience should not be blamed on the ex or on the child.
- Keep the custody arrangement separate from child support issues, good child support lawyers
- Cherish the time you spend with the child rather than regard it as something you have “won” in a fight with your ex.
- If you feel a change in the schedule would benefit the child, set aside any resentments you have with your ex, and discuss the change as a positive for the child.