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Top 10 Rules to Make Joint Custody Work

Divorce is hard on the adults in a marriage; there’s no doubt about that – but it is even harder on the children. When you are working on a parenting schedule for joint custody, you can construct it in such a way that it minimizes the impact and isn’t as hard on the children. Your attorney can help with the arrangement to ensure it is compliant with the terms of the custody agreement. If you are looking for ways to make joint custody work, this will help.

  1. Put the children first. Visitation, or what we call Parenting Time, is about the children, not the adults. It is intended to keep the children connected to both parents and foster that relationship. When working out joint visitation, make sure you put the children’s needs first and do what is best for them.
  2. Put your differences aside. So, you couldn’t live with this person. Maybe you can barely be in the same room. Whether you are best friends after the divorce, or mortal enemies, your personal feelings about your children’s other parent is irrelevant. This is about the children and both of you, as adults, need to put your personal feelings aside and focus on them, on their needs.
  3. Keep the adult issues between the adults. Children don’t need to be dragged into adult situation and they don’t need to be exposed to adult conflicts. Whatever your problems are with your children’s other parent need to be kept between the adults. Your children don’t need to hear about child support issues, what a deadbeat the other parent is, or what the other parent did to cause the marriage to dissolve. Let the kids be kids. They grow up too fast as it is.
  4. Don’t look for perfection. The perfect joint custody situation does not exist. Don’t try to attain perfection in your agreement because that will only serve to frustrate you, delay the process, and cause tension – and it will be your children who suffer.
  5. Don’t badmouth the other parent – ever. It is never a good idea to tell your children bad things about their other parent. On one hand, it can backfire on you in a really big, really bad way. On the other hand, you are only creating more stress and conflict in your child as they struggle to resolve their feelings for that parent. They are left feeling torn, having to choose one parent over the other, and guilty for loving one parent when the other says it is wrong. It has been said before, leave the children out of your conflict and adult conversations.
  6. Find what works best logistically for all parties. The further apart you are, the harder it will be to maintain joint custody. It also means that you will have to work a little harder to establish terms that work for all of you.
  7. Be willing to compromise. How many times have you told your children that they can’t always have things their way? Well the same goes for adults. When you are working on your joint custody agreement, you aren’t likely to get all the terms that you want. Be willing to compromise for the sake of the children. This is especially true in the case of unmarried parents. You have to be willing to compromise and work together to minimize as much as possible the impact your children feel from your separation.
  8. Institute a “drop off only” policy. You don’t want to be the “pick up parent.” Both you and your former partner should be “drop off parents.” That way, no parent is taking the children away from the other parent. Even if the children don’t say it or realize it, there is a subconscious message that they are being taken away from that parent. Keep a drop off only policy for much smoother transitions for your children.
  9. Stay flexible. – Flexibility is key in any custody arrangement that involves both parents. Life happens, and plans can change. It is important to stay flexible and work together to find the best ways to handle unexpected challenges so that your children are shielded from the effects of the divorce as much as possible. Of course, if one parent is taking advantage of the other, that should warrant a conversation – in private, away from the children – and really put forth the effort to make joint custody work.
  10. Ask the children what they want. In some circumstances, it’s appropriate to ask the children what they want. Of course, the children will likely say that what they want is their family to remain intact. If that is not an option, work with them to find a joint custody arrangement that best suits them. Maybe they want a schedule that will allow them to pursue certain activities or they want a more flexible schedule so if they are missing their parent, they have the option to visit outside of the prescribed schedule.

When you are going through a divorce, it can be difficult to wade through all terms as you discuss custody, visitation, division of property, and other issues.


At Infinity Law Group we understand and we’re here to help. We are knowledgeable, experienced family law attorneys, but we are also supportive and compassionate advocates for you and your children. Contact us and let us help make your divorce and custody just a little easier.