One of the worst sources of stress in any couple's divorce is the battle over where the children will live and how often the non-custodial parent will get to spend time with them. This is why joint custody arrangements are gaining in popularity as parents choose to work together and strive to make living in separate households as easy as possible for their kids. But working together with your soon-to-be ex is emotionally difficult and often painful. If you are in the midst of divorcing your spouse and hoping to find a way to craft a mutually agreeable joint custody agreement, here are some useful tips to consider.
Be kind to your ex
While it can certainly be very difficult to be kind to the person you are divorcing, especially when you feel the divorce is due to misbehavior on their part, doing so is critical in order to work together on a joint custody arrangement. It will also help set the tone for better communications when discussing the children's needs through the coming months and years and can help your children experience less distress in the years to come.
Put the needs of the children first
Crafting a joint custody arrangement does not necessarily mean awarding equal time and responsibility to each parent. Instead, parents must look past their own desires and make decisions with the well-being of their children as the first consideration. This may mean that one parent has physical custody during the entire school week so that the children can enjoy a more stable educational experience. The other parent might get less physical time with their children during the school year and then get extra time during school vacations to help make up the difference.
Look for creative solutions
It is important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers when crafting a mutually agreeable joint custody arrangement, as long as both parents are in agreement and the arrangement benefits the children. For example, both parents can agree to make their residence in the same school district and within the same general neighborhood so their children can have some freedom in moving between households and choosing how to spend time with each parent. This also allows both parents to more easily attend school functions and outings for their children than might be possible if they were living farther apart.
Make specific financial arrangements
Financial arrangements are one of the biggest sources of strife when working to create a joint custody arrangement. While it is certainly important that both parents share in the total costs of raising the children, differences in income and financial situations can make it impossible for these costs to always be split equally. To ensure that all costs are planned for, both now and in the future, make sure that both of you can agree on how medical and dental bills, educational expenses, clothing, and other major costs will be divided.
Establish a process for reviews and adjustments
As you move toward being single parents who are raising children together under a joint custody arrangement, it is important to periodically review your individual situations and have a plan for making any adjustments needed. Career changes, remarrying, health issues, and many other situations can arise that may require making adjustments to the original agreement. By establishing a process for future reviews and making adjustments at the time you create the initial agreement, you will both be able to work together more easily to find a solution that continues to be good for both of you as parents while still making sure your children come first.
When working toward a joint custody arrangement, it is often best for both parents to work closely with their own child custody attorney. This will ensure that both parents fully understand the laws of your state regarding child custody so that you can succeed in putting together the best possible joint custody arrangement.