One of the top stressors in a divorce is sharing the children. When a judge must decide child custody because parents cannot work out the arrangements, it almost always fuels the conflict after the divorce. Working together to set up a visitation schedule is much more effective not only for the parents but also for the children. Still, it can be quite difficult to navigate this issue with someone you are divorcing. Here are some tips to help you find solutions.
Keep the children out of the middle
Children will adjust to different schedules better when parents work together to reduce conflict. It may not be ideal to live in two homes, but having access to both parents who are supportive and caring will be better for the child. Adults may need to learn new communication skills, but more importantly, you both will have to remember to keep your child out of the process. You should present a united front. Do not use children to send messages to each other.
Remember the child's age and needs
Toddlers may benefit from shorter transitions, maybe two days at the maximum in each household. This is so the child feels secure that each parent will be available. However, by the time children reach their teenage years, having to transition too much will affect their security. A 14 or 15-year-old child might benefit from two weeks in one home, then two weeks with the other parent. Of course, the distance between homes will need to be evaluated. A long commute to school might be detrimental to the child if he or she has to lose sleep to get up earlier.
Encourage contact with the other parent
Parents who share 50/50 custody should remember two key things. First, it is going to be quite difficult to share time exactly at 50 percent. You both are going to need to be gracious and accommodate special plans and activities at times. Second, just because the child is with you does not mean they should forget about the other parent. As the parent, you are going to have make arrangements for telephone calls and contact when the child is with you.
Remember that these suggestions may not be appropriate in certain circumstances, such as where child abuse or domestic violence has occurred. If the child has special health needs, that will have to be taken into account. But finding an alternative to an adversarial divorce is almost always better for everyone involved. Talk to a lawyer who is interested in finding solutions.