Making Joint Custody Work

It's a known fact that most kids don't have an easy time dealing with their parents' divorce. But parents can make the situation a bit more bearable, especially when it comes to cooperating in a joint physical custody arrangement, by following some guidelines. Below are tips for parents, from parents, on how to make a messy situation manageable.

Consider the child first, the arrangement second.
Some children have a tough time with transitions; others handle them remarkably well. A child who does not separate easily or adapt well to change may not be a good candidate for 50-50 joint physical custody.

Ask yourself: Can you communicate effectively with someone you couldn't live with?
One of the cardinal rules of joint custody is not bad-mouthing the other parent. If anger or resentments linger, parents may find it impossible to work as a team to address the needs of the child. Still, you need teamwork to make joint custody work.

Think long and hard about logistics.
Joint physical custody works best when divorced parents live near each other. The fewer trips between two homes, the better. Given your lifestyle, are you able to dash over to your former wife's home with the soccer cleats and homework assignments your daughter forgot to pack?

Always drop off; never pick up the child on "switch day."
One parent realized early on that you never want to "take" the child from the other parent. Better to have the child dropped off than risk interrupting or curtailing a special moment between your child and former spouse.

Consider a Monday-Thursday/Friday-Sunday schedule.
Although this schedule doesn't split time equally, some experts recommend this arrangement for school-aged kids. Some parents try to "equalize" the time during school vacations.

Expect changes during adolescence.
Even when joint custody works well with younger children, teenagers often rebel against these arrangements as their priority shifts from spending time with parents to hanging out with friends. If an adolescent's desire to take control of his or her own schedule conflicts with the custody schedule, parents should try to be flexible.

Back to Beyond "Kramer vs. Kramer"


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