Sometimes, parents may put off divorce because they want to spare their children from experiencing grief. However, avoiding a divorce does not mean that your household will be free from strife. Conversely, getting a divorce is not always a negative thing in the long run.
When approaching a divorce, child welfare is often at the top of parents’ concerns. This begs the question: how can a joint custody plan best serve my children?
Five guidelines for joint custody
Every family’s situation is different; but adhering to these five general guidelines may help keep the best interests of your children at the forefront of your custody negotiation:
- If you have nothing good to say (about your ex) don’t say it: Your children, no matter their age, internalize what you say. If you consistently speak ill about your ex, your children will eventually embody those same feelings. This will only hurt their connection with your ex and further complicate your joint custody plan.
- Joint custody is about your children: Your decision making should always be focused on what situation is best for the children. Even though you love them to death, your current personal situation may not benefit them as well as your exes. For example, perhaps your work schedule does not lend itself well to getting the children up and off to school. In this situation, if your ex is a quality parent, you may have to, in the best interest of your children, allow your ex to have the children on school nights, and find other quality time to spend with your children.
- Consider all obstacles: When creating a custom joint custody agreement, several things should be considered. These include:
- The age and personalities of your children
- You and your future exes’ career and social commitments
- Your children’s extra-curricular and school-related activities
- Childcare arrangements
- The overall schedule (as a starting point, revisit how you managed this before you decided to get divorced)
- Consider common agreement options: Common joint custody options are, the “2-2-3 plan,” the “2-2-5 plan” and the “alternate week plan.”
- The 2-2-3 plan: The first parent gets the kids Monday and Tuesday, then the kids are transferred to the second parent for Wednesday and Thursday and back to the first parent Friday through Sunday. This schedule alternates each week.
- The 2-2-5 plan: First parent on Monday and Tuesday, then transferred to the other parent Wednesday and Thursday and back to the first parent the next five days. This scheduling style also alternates weeks. This style is more beneficial when the children are older and have their own schedules and obligations.
- Alternate week plan: This is self-explanatory, One week with one parent and the next week with the other parent, and so on.
- Don’t equate “bad spouse” to “bad parent”: There are many couples who divorce that are both excellent parents, it’s just that the relationship didn’t work out. This again boils down to focusing on what’s best for your children. When evaluating if your ex is fit for a joint custody agreement, see the person, not the spouse.
Finding the right way forward
What’s in your family’s best interest may not be the same as another family going through a divorce. Finding the right path forward takes courage, guidance and communication. But with the right mindset, a divorce does not have to be the end of a healthy family.