In our previous post, we talked about how great joint custody is when both parents are committed to being the best they can be despite their marital status. Unfortunately, not all parents meet these criteria. It takes a lot of honest self-examination and an objective assessment of your ex, but if you anticipate one of the following challenges getting out of hand, perhaps a different form of custody would be best for your child.
Overcoming the Odds
Joint custody can make it hard for children to open up. A child who splits time between two homes may find it difficult to feel at ease in either one. When this happens, they may have trouble knowing when it is okay to open up. Which parent do they go to if they’re being bullied, if they have a crush, or if they’re struggling with a particular subject? If they can’t figure out the answer to questions like these, they are likely to bottle it all up. Parents with joint custody must constantly encourage their children to express themselves, and when they hear something that upsets them, they should take it in stride. Overreacting or judging too harshly may force children back into their shell. You must handle bad news with restraint and even express your appreciation that your child came to you in a difficult situation.
Parents with joint custody sometimes use their children against one another. Hardly anyone can imagine themselves doing this, but as stated earlier, determining what is in your child’s best interest requires honest self-assessment. With joint custody – perhaps more so than with any other mode of divorced parenting – parents must make their children a priority if they are to give them any semblance of a normal upbringing. This means that you cannot take the idea of fifty-fifty too literally, treating your child as a piece of property to be divided up precisely. It means you cannot bicker with your ex about an hour here or an hour there, or compare how far you had to drive last week to have much they are driving today.
Always ask yourself how any dispute with your ex is meant to benefit your child. You may find that you are simply caught in a power struggle and are using your child as a weapon. Be the bigger person, go the extra mile.
Joint custody means more resistance to change. If your child is used to being with you half the time, what happens when you suddenly pack up and move? Even if you have a good reason – a brand new career opportunity, perhaps – your child may have trouble adjusting to yet another dramatic change. Remarriage is another of these big changes, albeit one that is understandably difficult to avoid. When a new person moves in, a child needs time to adapt.
Parents with joint custody must commit to minimizing the number, and the effect, of major changes introduced to their children’s lives. This involves a lot of communication, as well as reaffirmation, through words and actions, that your child belongs with you (and with your ex) and is loved.
Self-sacrifice is nothing new to most parents, but divorce adds another degree of complication. Not only must you put your own desires aside, but also any animosity you may have toward your ex. This sacrifice also means being honest with yourself about whether you and your ex are up to the task.
Whatever you decide, just remember that you aren’t alone. Mediation is an excellent first step and your attorney can help. Contact Torigian Law today and find out if joint custody is right for you and your family.