Times have changed in California and across the nation when it comes to post-divorce custody arrangements. The prevailing opinion of courts, child psychology experts and parents alike used to be that children, especially young ones, should live with their mothers and only visit their fathers after a divorce. However, today’s prevailing opinion is that your children thrive best when they spend as much time as possible with both you and your ex-spouse.
Recent studies show that your children will benefit from maintaining a close, loving parent-child relationship with both of you after your divorce in the following ways:
- They will suffer less stress, anxiety and depression at the breakup of your family.
- They will continue to have both a strong mother figure and a strong father figure to emulate and from whom to learn life’s lessons.
- They will do better academically.
- They will be less likely to smoke, drink, use drugs or otherwise give in to peer pressure.
- They will have a better relationship with their extended family, yours and that of your ex-spouse.
Joint custody rules
Parenting is never easy, and co-parenting after your divorce adds one more layer of potential conflict between you and your ex-spouse. Assuming, however, that both of you are reasonable adults and neither of you has any child abuse or neglect tendencies, you can prevent most such conflicts from arising or minimize them if and when they do. How? By agreeing to a set of rules by which you both abide.
The most important thing for both of you to keep in mind is that while your divorce was all about the two of you, your joint custody arrangement is all about your children. Therefore, neither of you should ever speak ill of the other to them or in their hearing. Your kids love both of you, never want to be caught in the middle of your disputes, and certainly do not want to feel that they may be the cause of your disagreements.
The other main thing both of you should keep in mind is that a “bad” spouse does not necessarily mean that the person is a “bad” parent. Many divorced parents who absolutely could not live together harmoniously are amazed to discover that the partner with whom they could barely have a civil conversation is a perfectly fine parent when left to his or her own devices.
Consider everyone’s commitments and schedules
When devising a realistic joint custody arrangement, be sure to take the following into consideration:
- Your children’s respective ages and personalities
- Your children’s respective school, extracurricular and social activities
- Your work schedule and that of your ex-spouse
- The distance between your residence and that of your ex-spouse, as well as the distance between your respective homes and where your children need and want to go
Whatever post-divorce joint custody arrangement you and your ex-spouse commit to, it is up to the two of you to make it work. The best way to do this is by communicating with each other as fully and openly as possible. Your reward will be to see your children grow up into healthy, responsible and happy adults.