Sharing joint custody has its challenges, even if you have a cordial relationship with your former spouse. But navigating the ins and outs of co-parenting can be made doubly complicated if you have recently divorced or separated.
Norman Dowler LLP offers these strategies that should help make joint custody a successful, long-term solution:
Realize the Benefits to Your Kids
Breaking the news of your divorce to your children will never be easy, but they should be assured that their parents’ love for them is solid. Whether they are at mom or dad’s house, they can be confident and grow into well-adjusted young people by knowing that they have two parents who support them unconditionally. Also, children who are raised by co-parents will learn to adapt to the rules and responsibilities required by each parent, and eventually grow into independent adults. By watching their parents work together and treat each other respectfully, the children will have a great example of what healthy relationships and critical problem-solving skills should look like.
Set Your Feelings Aside
In spite of your love for your children, there will still be fresh wounds to contend with post-divorce. Avoid taking out your hurt feelings on your kids, or expecting them to be your therapist. And never put your children in the middle of any conflicts between you and your ex. Instead, speak respectfully about your ex-spouse in front of your young ones, and avoid making them feel like they need to pick a side. If you have any issues with your former spouse, speak to them directly – spare your kids from becoming messengers. Redirect any negative emotions you might feel into providing the best life for your family.
Keep Communication Lines Open and Peaceful
As tempting as it might be to completely drain your ex from your life, this is impossible when you have shared kids in the picture. Make it easier on yourself and keep your children at the center of all your interactions – after all, they are your number-one priority.
Be cordial with your ex, just as you would be with a client or coworker. Never make demands. Instead, make reasonable requests and compromises. Hear out your ex too; they may have important insights and suggestions you’ll find useful. Practice empathy, forgiveness, and open-mindedness. Your ex is also a parent, so you need to give them the same courtesy you would want.
What your children will crave most during this rough patch is structure. With your ex, establish ground rules regarding curfews, bedtimes, chores, time for homework, etc. and keep them the same for both homes. Being the ‘fun parent’ will not necessarily endear you more to your kids in the long run; it will only make it harder for you to enforce rules later. As co-parents, you must stand together when your children try to test their limits with you.
Follow Court Orders – But Be Flexible
Of course, it is absolutely critical to follow the rules when it comes to joint custody. It will make your lives easier and you will be in compliance with the law.
But you should also be open to changes. What if your ex-spouse needs to switch weekends with you, or has a new work schedule that may interfere with the original joint custody plan? If you or your ex need to modify the co-parenting schedule upon occasion, shutting them down will likely have undesirable consequences. Listen, be flexible, and make decisions that will serve your children’s best interests.
If you need legal counsel regarding divorce or child custody issues, contact our seasoned family law attorneys at Norman Dowler LLP. Since 1958, we have helped thousands of clients with their legal matters, providing legal representation tailored to Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles Counties.
Thomas J. Hutchinson
Norman Dowler, LLP
840 County Square Drive, Third Floor
Ventura, CA 93003