Going through a divorce is difficult for many reasons; but one of the biggest challenges is going through a custody dispute. Many emotions are running high, and often you are thinking of what is best for you, and worst for your soon-to-be-ex. But what you might not realize, is that what is best for you, is not always best for the children. Here are some things to remember when going through a custody dispute.
- Realize that some children may need more time with one parent than with the other. It is important to understand and acknowledge your child’s present and future physical, emotional and mental needs before deciding what works best for you.
- As the years go on, the needs of the children may change. They may get into more activities that fit into one parent’s schedule better than the other. Make sure the child’s needs come before yours to keep the child’s life as normal as it can be.
- Will both parents still be in the same school district? Changing schools can be tough on a child. If possible, keep this in mind when a custody arrangement that will work best for your family.
- What works well for one child, might not be the best for another. Don’t assume that all children need the same arrangement. Though this can get complicated, it may be the best option for your children.
- Depending on the age, checking with the children to hear their thoughts and opinions may be important. This does not mean that you need to give them everything they ask for; but taking into consideration what will make them feel most comfortable is important. Be careful in your conversations with your children to keep them at the center and not in the middle. Listen and understand each child’s point of view about the family change. Create a safe place for the children to express their feelings, worries and fears.
- Children are not bargaining tools. Threatening to take the kids, or insisting on joint custody because child support feels like a burden is not fair to the children. Be proud that you are still able to support them financially and focus on how much better your child’s life will be with that support.
- Unless your spouse is a danger to your children, keeping the kids to yourself will be more detrimental to the children than to your spouse. You may feel that you “win” if you have custody, or get more time with them, but what will help the children win? That is what is important.
- Make sure the parenting time arrangements are flexible with both parents’ schedules as well as the children’s.
- Keeping a healthy relationship with your ex is very important for the children. Just because you are getting divorced, and you may not be happy with your ex, does not mean that you need to talk negatively about them to your children; it is still their mom/dad and they do not need to be brought into the middle. Your child has a right to a healthy relationship with both parents, and you have an obligation to foster their relationship with the other parent.
- After the decision has been made, sit down with your child and explain what has been decided and how it will affect their schedule and activities.
Once the custody and parenting plan is set, one or both parents may realize that the arrangement is not working well for the child. If this is the case, make sure to talk to each other and decide what can change to make the arrangement work out better. The child will be a connecting factor between you both for a long time. Though this may not look like a positive to you, it is for your child.
If you cannot come to an agreement, it may be time to consult an attorney. Find an attorney that understands the complexities of custody legalities, but also one with whom you feel comfortable working. They can help your family negotiate an arrangement that is best for your children and your family.