10 Ways to Make Joint-Custody Work
New studies released last year show that children fare far better when they spend physical time with each parent. Children involved in a joint-custody arrangement where they spend at least 35% of their time with each parent not only have better parental relationships but they do better academically, emotionally, and socially. If you’ve gone through the divorce process as a parent, you’re likely very familiar with the term joint custody, though it’s not always the right choice for everyone.
Some couples may have to overcome some obstacles in order to make the arrangement work, and the argument could be made that it’s worth it to try and make joint-custody work. Here are 10 ways that parents can make joint-custody work for the benefit of their children.
#1: Choose the plan that works best for your family.
Life can be hectic for families, but it’s worth it in the long run to figure out a joint-custody arrangement that suits your lifestyle and affords some regularity for your children. Common custody plans are 2-2-3 or 2-2-5, where each parent alternates on a regular rotation. Additionally, some parents will alternate weeks. As we discussed above, as little as a third of your child’s time spent with each parent is advantageous.
#2: Commit to peaceful parenting.
Peaceful parenting can mean whatever you decide for it to, though some choose to adhere to a set philosophy. Essentially peaceful parenting means that parents will choose mindfulness as their parenting approach, looking at broader and long-term relationships instead of just isolated behavioral outbursts in their children. Committing to peaceful parenting can help in a joint-custody arrangement, as it may serve as a unifying ethos for parents to adhere to. It can also help children that may indicate they are struggling with the new arrangement by acting out, as it will serve as a guideline on how to handle isolated behavior.
#3: Leave your marriage issues behind you.
When the divorce is over, there will be a lot of adjustments to be made for your children. Ease them into this transition by not letting the issues of your recently-ended marriage bleed over into your joint-parenting arrangement. Some parents may find success by agreeing beforehand to discuss any issues at a time when their children are not with them.
#4: Alternate custody, not parental responsibility.
It doesn’t matter if it’s you scheduled time with the kids or not – both parents should make an effort to be present in their children’s life 100% of the time. This may mean attending school events like open houses and parent-teacher conferences even if it isn’t your scheduled time with the kids.
#5: Think of the example you’re setting for your children.
Parents are always teachers, showing their children how to handle life pressures. Joint custody is an opportunity to show your kids that co-parenting can be achieved in a positive, successful way with love as the primary feeling between parents and their kids.
#6: Consider scheduling times when both parents are with their children.
Assuming you’re able to interact peacefully with your ex-spouse, consider scheduling intentional family time where everyone is together. This could look like a picnic, play date at the park, or a family dinner. By showing your children that you can all still spend time together even if you aren’t living together, you can positively reinforce your joint-custody arrangement.
#7: Don’t forget to be flexible.
Life happens, events come up, and parents may need to alter their joint custody parenting plans. Don’t become rigid or strict if your co-parent makes a reasonable request to the schedule, because in the end you’re parenting plan needs to work for your children just as much as you.
#8: Develop a communication plan.
As a couple, communication might not have been your strong suit. But as parents, it’s vital you hone this skill. Learn to communicate on important topics, like choice of schools, behavioral concerns, emergency plans, and more.
#9: Respect each other.
This piece of advice may sound redundant – you may not think you’re a disrespectful person. But parents, take note! Dedicating yourself to respecting your ex-spouse and your children can really improve your joint-custody relationship. For example, consider if taking your child out past their bedtime regularly is something that is respectful to your child and the other parent, who may be trying to implement a sleep routine.
#10: Don’t know? Ask.
If you don’t know what goes on with your children on the days your ex-spouse has them, ask. It’s ok to inquire as to how your children are doing, what issues they may be facing, and what sort of milestones they are meeting. This allows you to provide continuous care to your children, even when they are sleeping at mom’s some days and dad’s the others. Communicating, even in times of uncertainty, is a smart strategy for co-parents.
There are many ways to ensure that your children are happy and well-cared for after a divorce. More than 20 states are now supporting legislature that promotes joint-custody. While this option may not be right for every situation, it’s one that is certainly worth considering for the sake of your children.