Parenting after divorce can rapidly turn into open warfare with your ex. You’re angry and frustrated, but for the sake of your children and your sanity, it’s best to come up with some basic parenting ground rules for both households, and let the rest go.
The kids need consistency. Your parenting styles don’t have to be the same, in fact, exposure to different styles can help children enhance their decision-making skills. But there are some rules you and your ex should try your best to agree on.
You may have had a good-cop, bad-cop thing going on when you were together, but your kids need more stability and consistency after divorce. If one of you is strict and the other lets them get away with murder, or one of you is always buying them new things while the other is more money conscious, it can lead to conflict with your kids and even more between you and your ex.
The thing is, you can’t make your ex change her parenting style. You can ask her to change her rules, but you can’t expect her to say yes, and she can’t expect you to say yes if you don’t want to modify the rules at your house. To move forward, parenting after divorce means you and your ex both need to be willing to do what’s best for your kids.
Negotiating Terms for Parenting After Divorce
Even if you and their mother have different parenting styles, establishing ground rules in each home keeps things consistent for your kids. Their routines and schedules should be the same – the same wake-up/bedtime, the same homework routine (only watch TV after their homework’s done), getting to school and after-school activities on time, the same curfew if they’re old enough to go out at night, etc.
Children need routines. Routines bring stability and reassure your children that change is okay and that they have support and love in each household.
1.Protect your Kids from Conflict
Kids suffer from seeing their parents arguing or hearing them bad-mouthing each other. They love both parents and see themselves as half of you and half of your ex. Hearing you bitch about their mother, or the other way around can make them feel like the mean words are meant for them, too.
If you’re not happy with the way your ex is parenting, don’t get into an argument with her about it in front of your kids. Fighting causes your children to feel stressed and anxious at a time that has already been hard on them
2. It’s How You Say It
If you tell your ex to do something, chances are she’s not going to do it. People are much more likely to consider a different point of view if they are educated about it and then asked if they’d consider changing their rules. If you explain why it’s best for your kids to read a book rather than play on their iPads before bed, and give examples where reading helped put them to sleep, she’s more likely to consider modifying her rules than if you straight out tell her to change her stupid ways.
You’re divorced now, and don’t want to put up with any more of her garbage. But, while you and your ex may not have a marital relationship anymore, you still have a parenting relationship. Instead of fighting with each other about whose parenting is right or wrong and what each should be doing differently, focus on what is and isn’t working for your children and why.
3. Suck It Up for The Kids’ Sake
When push comes to shove, your ex may not be willing to change her ways at all. As long as your kids aren’t in imminent danger, you’ll just have to suck it up to protect them from extra stress and tension. If both parents have the kids’ best interests in mind, it’s okay to have different parenting styles because ultimately your kids are being loved and supported and that’s most important of all.
If your kids are doing their homework, staying healthy, getting exercise, attending their extra-curricular activities and maintaining their responsibilities, then you are not giving in by letting go of how their mother is going about it in her house. The only thing you have to agree on is the health, well-being, and support of your children.
4. Keep Your Kids in the Loop
While you need to protect your kids from drama, you should also be communicating with your kids. If you and your ex have different rules for each house, explain to them that mom and dad are different and that they have different rules.
You can say “At daddy’s house you can drink juice, and at mommy’s house you can drink milk and water.” Don’t make one sound better or worse, and don’t try to get the kids on your side by saying, “Dad’s rules are better.” Even if they are!
Your kids should not have to choose sides. If you don’t communicate with your kids, they’ll expect the rules to be the same in each place, so make sure they’re aware of the differences. This will help the kids know where they stand in both households.
5. Consult an Expert
Can’t stop fighting? Don’t hesitate to get an expert involved. If you two are at an impasse on a big issue that has to do with your child’s education or health, enlist an expert with an objective view on what’s best for your child.
Sometimes both parents get so carried away with being right, they’re no longer thinking about what’s best for the kids. Or maybe other relatives or new partners are trying to wade in. Use the expert to cut through some of the crap and get down to what’s best for your kids.
Parenting after divorce can be a struggle, especially if you and your ex don’t see eye to eye. When you know your children get support, love, and care in both households, don’t sweat the details. You are still the best Dad they ever had.
(c) Can Stock Photo / georgemuresan
As if divorce itself isn’t bad enough, when there are kids involved, it’s even worse. In fact, most newly divorced dads would say the hardest part about divorce is missing the kids when they are with the ex-wife. Going to bed without those bedtime romps and kisses every night or waking up to a lonely, quiet house can be extremely tough.
The good news is that you’ll learn to cope with the children being away. You’ll never stop missing the kids, but you can adjust to your new lifestyle. Here are five tips for coping when you miss your kids.
Stop Beating Yourself Up
As a newly divorced dad, it is really easy to blame yourself when aren’t with the kids. After all, you chose or agreed to this divorce, right? You may catch yourself saying things like “I am a horrible father for choosing my happiness over being with my children” or “I chose to be without my kids. I should have stayed even though I was unhappy.” You may feel guilty and selfish now that the reality of shared custody has set in.
Beating yourself up when you are missing the kids isn’t going to do anyone any good. After all, would you rather have the children growing up in an unhappy home? Two separate and happy parents can be better than two unhappy parents together. Remind yourself that choosing divorce in an unhappy marriage is often best for everyone involved, including the kids. Especially if the divorce wasn’t your idea, then you had no choice and shouldn’t beat yourself up.
Keep Yourself Busy When You Are Missing the Kids
Keeping yourself occupied will not only help you pass the time when you don’t have your kids, but it will help pull you out of a slump and begin the process of rebuilding your new life. You’ll have more alone time now so you might as well start to use it and enjoy it.
Fill your calendar with enjoyable activities when the kids are with your ex. Use this time alone to get back into a long-lost hobby or do something for yourself. Read a book, see a movie, focus on your career or learn a new hobby. Treat yourself to something special. As you move on and begin to date again, plan your dating for when you won’t have the kids. This way you will have something to look forward to and focus on during the times your children are away.
Take Care of Yourself
Divorced parents are a little bit like masochists. They feel guilty for having fun or taking care of themselves when they aren’t with their children. But when it comes down to it, you must take care of yourself following a divorce if you want to be able to take care of your children. Taking care of yourself will make you a better father, and it will set a good example for your children. Divorce can lead to anxiety and depression (especially when you’re desperately missing your children), and if you don’t make an effort to take care of yourself, this can spill over to your kids. So, take the time to get the help and care that you need to make the transition to single fatherhood. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children.
Be Flexible with Schedule Changes
Take advantage of every chance you get to spend with your kids. While it may be tempting to say “no” to your ex’s request for you to take the kids an extra night so she can go on a business trip or a date, take the high road and think about what you want. Is your desire to hurt her or cause her grief larger than your desire to get the kids an extra day? Take advantage of the extra time and thank her for it!
Communicate with Your Children
Divorce is tough on children too. They may have similar feelings of anxiety or guilt with the new lifestyle, and they may worry about you when they go to stay with their mother. So, talk to them about it. Let them know you are going to be okay by telling them about your plans. Tell them about the book you are going to read or the old friend you plan to catch up with. Don’t let them see how sad you are when they leave. Take the burden off of them.
When you are missing the kids, you may spend hours wondering what they are up to and if they are okay. The best way to silence the worry is to ask. When you have your kids, ask about their week. Get curious. Ask about their school and their hobbies. Ask about their feelings and how they are doing. Listen to their answers. Just don’t give in to the temptation to ask too much about their mother or criticize her to the kids. The kids don’t need to be in the middle of your relationship trouble.
Enjoy the Time With the Kids
Focus on the time you will have with the kids and don’t obsess about the times you won’t. When you aren’t with your kids, think about the activities you’ll enjoy together when they come back. It doesn’t matter what you do with your kids when they are with you. You don’t have to plan extravagant outings or spend a lot of money. Just enjoy your time together. Listen to their stories, make them giggle, and soak up every moment.
There are lots of distracted parents who don’t take full advantage of the time they have with their children. They turn on the TV or browse their smartphones while the kids play instead of getting down on the floor with them. They work extra hours at work instead of making it home every night for dinner.
Divorced parents, however, typically have more appreciation of the time with their children because it is limited. Sometimes quality is more important than quantity. Focus on what you do have. Be grateful for it.
Divorce is tough, and you can expect a period of adjustment after the final decree is entered. There will be days you don’t see your children at all, and it can be easy to focus on how much you are missing the kids. This can lead to even more unhappiness and loneliness.
Remeber, you have the power to decide what to focus on. You can choose to focus on the time you do have together and make the most of the time you are away from them. Divorce changes everything, and part of that change includes personal growth and improvement in relationships – including your relationships with your kids.
While the amount of time you spend with them may decrease, the quality of the time can actually increase. Focus on the positive. It may not make you miss your kids any less, but it can help you cope and adjust to the divorced lifestyle.
(c) Can Stock Photo / krasyuk
If you’re a divorced dad who hasn’t started saving for college, you’re not alone. Most parents want their child to go to college, but less than 40% have a plan to pay for it. With less than 25% of funds currently spent on college coming from savings, it’s no wonder student loan debt is so high.
Annual college tuition and fees are now averaging nearly $35,000 at a private, four-year institution. They are almost $10,000 at a public four-year college and $3,500 at public two-year schools. As costs continue to increase the struggle to pay for them will too.
Results from the 10th annual study, How America Pays for College 2017, show parents are paying 31% of these costs through savings or loans, with students picking up 30%, family and friends covering 4%, and scholarships funding for the remaining 35% of advanced educations.
As a divorced dad, saving for college on top of child support payments, everyday living expenses, and your future retirement, may seem impossible. Yet, with a bit of planning and perhaps some creativity too, you can start saving today. Thus, making advanced education an affordable option for your children in the future.
It’s Not Too Late to Start Saving for College
Choosing to attend in-state versus out-of-state schools is one way students themselves can reduce the overall cost of college. Earning college credits in high school, or attending community colleges for one or two years before moving on to four-year institutions are others. Living at home instead of at college, or living with one or more roommates, help as well.
Applying for scholarships and working while in high school are additional ways your child can help. This will minimize the impact later on your wallet and theirs too.
Even if your son or daughter is now a sophomore in high school, it’s not too late to start saving for college. Any savings is beneficial but the sooner you start, the better of course. According to Finaid.org, stashing away just $50 per month from your child’s birth to the time they turn 17 would provide $20,000, assuming a 7% return on investment.
Before starting college savings, however, experts suggest:
- Paying off any credit card debt or other high-interest loans.
- Establishing an emergency savings account with 3-6 months of expenses accumulated
- Regularly contributing to your tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts – 401ks, Traditional IRAs, etc.
Additional College Saving Tips
Cut non-essential expenses to provide more money for savings. Track your spending to see if there are any expenses you can eliminate to increase your savings for college. Think cable TV, gym memberships, subscriptions you don’t use or eating out less. $5, $10, or $25 savings add up over time.
Increase your income. Ask for a raise at work or apply for a promotion. Seek a position at a competing company offering a larger salary and benefits. Turn an interest or a hobby into a side hustle and create an additional income stream or pick-up a part-time job.
Keep substantial savings in your name with your child as beneficiary, to avoid any loss of student aid. For every dollar above $3,000 saved in your child’s name, 20 cents is subtracted.
Make savings automatic. Make it easy on yourself by automatically depositing a portion of your paycheck into your savings.
Where to Stash Your Money
529 College Plans
More than 30 states offer a 529 college savings plan with full or partial tax savings benefits. Also known as Qualified Tuition Programs (QTP), 529’s are funded with after-tax money you’re allowed to withdraw later tax-free, including any gains, for use on qualified education costs, such as tuition, fees, and books. These state plans offer various investment options and expenses, and contribution limits vary.
A 529 account owner is allowed to withdraw funds at any time for any reason – but the earnings portion of non-qualified withdrawals will incur income tax plus a 10% penalty tax. Should your child not end up going to college, you can typically transfer the account to another beneficiary.
Most plans allow you to change your 529 plan investment options twice per calendar year and allow for a rollover of funds into another 529 plan once per 12-month period. 529 programs have no income, age, or annual contribution limits, but may have lifetime contribution limits – $235,000 to $500,000 depending on the plan.
Roth IRAs, popular as tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicles, can also be used for college savings. As with a 529 plan, you contribute after-tax money to a Roth IRA, and any investment gains can later be withdrawn tax-free, typically for retirement after age 59-1/2. But a Roth IRA also allows you to remove funds tax- and penalty-free, after five years, when used to pay for qualifying educational expenses. Should your child not attend college, you can use the funds for your retirement.
There are income and contribution limits with the Roth IRA. Single taxpayers earning more than $129,000 per year are not eligible, and contributions are limited to $5,500 per year ($6,500 for those over age 50).
Coverdell Education Savings Account
Coverdell ESA’s may be used to cover not just college costs but also any educational expenses, including private school tuition at K-12 institutions. Like a 529 college savings plan, the Coverdell ESA is typically tax-advantaged when utilizing the savings for education expenses.
You may contribute $2,000 per child per year, although contributions phase out for anyone earning more than $95,000 per year.
Similar to the 529 and Roth IRA, money in a Coverdell ESA is considered your asset, not your child’s for financial aid purposes. Please note, however, funds not utilized before your child turns 30 may be subject to taxes and penalties.
Prepaid College Tuition Plans
Prepaid plans allow you to pay for a portion of your child’s college tuition today, locking in current costs and in turn protecting you from future tuition hikes. Like 529 college plans, monetary gains in these programs are typically exempt from federal taxes. A dozen plus states offer prepaid tuition plans but this not the most recommended method of saving for college, as it severely limits educational choices to the state they are purchased.
UGMA / UTMA Custodial Accounts
The Uniform Gift to Minor’s Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfer to Minor’s Act (UTMA) accounts are custodial accounts to hold and protect assets for minors until they reach adulthood. Because the assets are considered the property of the child, they provide some tax benefits, but less than a 529 plan would. Additionally, unlike other saving plans, they can be considered your child’s asset affecting federal aid amounts your child qualifies for.
A custodian can initiate withdrawals for the child’s benefit provided the expenses are for a legitimate need. Unlike other college savings accounts, payments are not limited to education costs. Once your child becomes a legal adult, they may use the money for any purpose without custodian consent.
Other Ways to Save for College
- Sign up for Upromise – Register for a free at Upromise.com and earn cash back for college with your shopping, dining, and travel. You earn money by using your registered credit, debit, and loyalty cards at participating businesses. Accumulate savings in a savings account, a 529 plan, or have a check sent to you.
- Credit Card Rewards – Find a credit card specifically designed to earn college savings or use any cash back rewards card to amass savings for college. By using your credit card to pay for items such as your utilities, your cell phone bill, groceries, and insurance and paying off the balance in full each month, you’ll accrue some additional savings for college. Of course, utilize any credit card responsibly and don’t go into credit card debt trying to save.
- LEAF College Savings Gift Cards – Leaf provides family and friends a way to gift a monetary amount for your child’s education. A gift card is purchased via LeafSavings.com and sent to you via email, Facebook, or postal service. You then redeem the gift card on Leaf’s site and transfer it to your 529 college savings plan.
No matter how or where you decide to save for college, get started as soon as possible to take advantage of time and compounding interest. You and your child will be thankful you did. Remember, every little bit helps.
Sources and Recommended Resources:
What is a 529 plan?
Choosing the Best 529 College Savings Plan
(c) Can Stock Photo / karenr
Divorce can have a huge impact on almost every part of your life, especially if you and your ex have kids. Often your children are the ones most affected by the split, so it’s important to find ways to minimize divorce damage from the start. There are numerous things you can do to make the divorce easier on your kids, and although every situation is different, if you do these seven things, there’s a high chance that you’ll minimize divorce damage as much as possible.
Kids and Divorce Damage
Divorce is rarely easy on kids, and it becomes especially difficult if they didn’t see anything wrong with their parents’ relationship to being with. When there’s conflict and fighting between parents, divorce can come as a relief to children, but many adults are good at hiding their disagreements from their kids. Some children are blindsided by the divorce of their parents, which can lead to emotional and mental instability and resentment.
Without acting quickly to minimize divorce damage, you may find your kids start acting out, having problems at school or withdrawing from you altogether. You want to create a good relationship between you, your kids and your ex, so your kids can deal with the divorce in a healthy way.
Here are seven reliable ways to minimize the divorce damage.
1. Provide Reassurance
Your kids need to know that they are 100% not responsible for the divorce and that both of their parents love them and that won’t change. Both parents should make a consistent effort and arrange to see their kids on a constant basis. You should let your children know exactly what is going to change so they can prepare for what life is going to be like with divorced parents. Kids need structure and guidance, and they need to be assured that everything is going to be okay.
2. Don’t Argue in Front of Your Kids
Divorce can be scarring enough for your kids, without seeing their divorced parents argue. If you want to minimize the divorce damage, make sure you don’t disagree or fight in front of your kids or anywhere they can hear you. Parental conflict is one of the biggest sources of damage to a child’s mental and emotional state, so try to keep things as civil as possible. Your children’s needs should always be your first priority, so keep that top of mind whenever you’re communicating with your ex.
When there is less conflict between parents, children are less stressed and more resilient. They tend to do better at school and extra-curricular activities and are more emotionally stable.
3. Keep Their Routines Consistent
Your kids are going through a lot emotionally, so it’s more important than ever to maintain consistency with their routines, so they don’t become further confused or distraught. Routines should be kept consistent in both homes – the same bedtime, mealtime, wake-up time and extra-curricular activities. Your kids shouldn’t have to suffer due to their parents’ schedules. If they have dance classes or hockey practices they need to get to, you and your ex need to make sure one of you can get them there.
A disturbance in their routines can disrupt their lives and emotions even more, so keep their routines as consistent as possible. Even though you and your ex-spouse no longer live together, your children need routine and stability from both of you to minimize divorce damage.
4. Don’t Ask Your Kids to Take Sides
You and your ex should never ask your kids to take sides. This creates a lot of confusion and will undoubtedly result in resentment. You both love your kids, and it’s vital and healthy for them to know they’re loved and respected by both parents, and you have to recognize that your ex deserves your child’s love, too. Be conscious of whether you’re guilty of asking them to take sides, even in subtle ways. If you are, you need to make an effort to stop it altogether.
It’s emotionally draining for kids to decide which parent to side with, and it’s just not fair to them to have to deal with that situation. Your custody agreement should allow your child to spend quality time with both parents, so they don’t have to choose one over the other.
5. Stay Involved in Your Kids’ Lives
After a divorce, your kids will want you to stay as involved in their lives as possible. They want you to call, text, see them in person and ask them lots of questions about their life. If you don’t stay involved, they may think you don’t care about them, or they’re at the back of your mind now that you and their mom have split. If they feel like they’re not important or not worthy of your time, the divorce will damage them even more.
They need to know you care, that you’re there for them, and that you’re interested in what they’re doing or what they’re having troubles with. Staying involved will strengthen your relationship and make it easier for them to cope with the divorce.
6. Figure Out How to Co-Parent Properly
You can reduce the damage of divorce on your children when you and your ex learn how to co-parent properly. There are plenty of things you can do to ensure you’re effectively co-parenting. Here are a few of the most important ones:
- Set the intention to create a healthy, supportive co-parenting relationship
- Keep your previously agreed open schedules, but be open to a change in plans from time to time
- Work on yourself to be the best person and parent you can be
- Make important decisions about your children together
- Talk well about your ex to your kids
- Respect one another’s differing parenting styles
- Have a good line of communication and don’t communicate through your kids
- Create cohesive rules, routines, and values in each home
- Both attend important events such as parent/teach conferences, sport/extra-curricular activities, recitals, etc.
- Each spends quality one-on-one time with your children
7. Recognize Your Relationship with Your Ex Isn’t Ending, It’s Changing
When you get a divorce, your marriage is ending, but your relationship with your ex isn’t – it’s changing. When children are in the mix, you’ll always have to have a relationship with your ex, and it’s best to recognize that. The sooner you both realize you’re in a parenting relationship, the sooner you can start collaborating as a team. You need to communicate with each other to create rules and boundaries for your children. You need to make important decisions together about your children’s lives, and you need to talk about your schedules to make sure one of you is always there for your kids.
When you have children, you can’t expect to be done with your ex once your divorce is finalized. You didn’t work as a couple, but you have to make it work as parents. It will be a lot easier on both of you, as well as your kids if you work together to make your parenting relationship work.
Are you worried about the affects of divorce damage on your children? What do you see causing the most damage, and how do you plan to overcome it?
(c) Can Stock Photo / Ulianna19970
Does Divorce Scar Children – Or Do Poor Parenting Choices Do the Damage?
Boynton Beach, FL: That’s the question Rosalind Sedacca, CDC has been answering for the past decade as Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. Sedacca speaks out for children of divorce. She helps parents understand how divorce affects children so they avoid mistakes and make better post-divorce parenting decisions.
To commemorate International Child-Centered Divorce Month the entire month of January is devoted to alerting parents about crucial single parenting and co-parenting issues to safeguard the well being of their children during and long after a separation or divorce.
Divorce coaches, attorneys, mediators, therapists, financial planners and parenting experts provide complimentary educational material for parents, including ebooks, coaching services, videos, audio programs and other valuable resources. Parents who are contemplating divorce, divorcing or transitioning after divorce can access this material at a special website available throughout January: http://www.divorcedparentsupport.com/ebook.
Parents will also find listings of free workshops, expert interviews and other special events during January on the Events Calendar at the same website.
Rosalind Sedacca will be providing complimentary audio interviews filled with helpful advice and strategies from child-centered divorce experts.
“Our purpose is education and mistake prevention. We want to encourage respectful co-parenting, teach effective communication skills, and guide parents away from litigation and toward collaboration, and cooperative, mediated solutions whenever possible,” Sedacca says.
Another example, Azmaira Maker, PhD, author of Family Changes, a book for young children explaining divorce, is offering a complimentary ebook: 10 Golden Rules Protecting Children From Divorce Tug-of-Wars. Maker says, “Parents wonder if there are any buffers to minimize the potentially debilitating effects of divorce. So I provide guidelines for parents and a voice for children through my book and tips.”
Rosalind Sedacca, who initiated Child-Centered Divorce Month, is Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents, the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! She is also the host of the Divorced, Dating & Empowered Living radio show and podcast.
Complimentary Child-Centered Divorce Resources
During January, for International Child-Centered Divorce Month, parents and divorce professionals can access all the complimentary resources and special events taking place by visiting: http://www.divorcedparentsupport.com/ebook.
Rosalind Sedacca is available for interviews and can be reached at www.childcentereddivorce.com, 561 742-3537 or [email protected]
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
The Voice of Child-Centered Divorce
561 742-3537/561 385-4205
Author: How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?
Founder, Child-Centered Divorce Network
Host: Divorce, Dating & Empowered Living Radio Show & Podcast
Joint custody is the legal custody of a child that’s split between both parents after divorce. When it comes to sharing custody, it’s important the arrangement works for you, your ex-spouse and your kids. It isn’t always easy sharing custody, especially if it was a messy divorce, but it works best when both parents are cooperative and respectful. Your kids come first, and it’s important you and your ex don’t forget that when splitting up holidays and working around your schedules and commitments. If you can figure out a custody arrangement that works best for all of you, it can have plenty of benefits for your kids.
Co-parenting and Joint Custody
Co-parenting is when both parents play an active role in their children’s lives after divorce. If you and your ex can co-parent amicably, it can have a positive influence on the mental and emotional well-being of your children. Your kids are more likely to feel secure, stable, and happy, and will be able to form a good relationship with both parents if you can co-parent well.
As co-parents, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make regarding joint custody is how to split the custody time. Joint custody doesn’t necessarily mean the time has to be divided equally between both parents. There are numerous different arrangements, depending on your and your ex’s location, the age of your kids, etc. Some popular custody arrangements are:
- The 2-2-3 plan: Mom gets the kids on Monday and Tuesday, dad gets the kids on Wednesday and Thursday, mom gets the kids Friday through Sunday, and then it switches with dad starting on Monday.
- Monday through Thursday/Friday through Sunday plan: Although it’s not exactly even, this often works best for young kids in school to have consistency throughout the school week.
- Alternate weeks/months: Some co-parents decide that a longer period of time would work best for their kids’ schedules, so they switch every week or every month.
- For co-parenting and joint custody to work, there are some things you and your ex have to work on to develop and maintain in your parenting relationship.
Here are five secrets to making joint custody work.
1. Remember: It’s All About the Kids
It’s important for you and your ex to put your egos aside, and remember the most important part of joint custody is the kids. The divorce may hurt, and you may want to focus on your own needs, but you have to remember to create a happy, healthy situation for your kids in both homes. Your kids don’t want to see you and your ex arguing, they don’t want to be the messenger between the two of you, and they don’t want to feel like they have to choose between mom and dad. If you want to make joint custody work, you have to recognize what’s best for you children and control your words and actions.
Your kids should also have a say in the process, depending on their age. If they’re preteens or teens, they may want input on where they stay on what day due to their schedules. Younger kids may want some toys at their moms and others at their dads. Let your kids have a say, but you and your ex are ultimately the ones who know what’s best for them.
2. Attend School and Social Commitments Together
At special events like your child’s school recital, birthday party or soccer game, it’s important for them to have both of their parents there. In a joint custody arrangement, you rarely have to see your ex if you don’t want to, but put your kids first when it serves their best interest. These gatherings are limited, so if you and your ex can agree to deal with each other and be civil, it will be beneficial for your kids to see both parents attend. It may be difficult, and if your relationship with your ex is not in good shape, it may be best to attend events separately until the timing is right. But if you can both make it work, it will be beneficial for your children.
3. Improve Communication with Your Ex
If you had a rough break up, your ex might be the last person you want to communicate with, but if you want to make joint custody work, you have to maintain effective communication. Always think of your kids’ well being when you communicate with your ex. You don’t even have to talk in person if you’re not ready for it. You can speak over the phone or via emails or texts, but try to keep things civil and always make your children the focal point of every conversation.
You can also use tools like Google calendars and iCalendars to organize your arrangements. This stands as a record and ensures no one forgets which days they have the kids, what activities they need to get the kids to, etc.
4. Logistical Living
Joint custody will be easier if you and your ex live close by. It doesn’t have to be in the same neighborhood or on the same street (although some divorced couples opt to live under the same roof), but it makes it easier on the kids if they don’t have to travel far to get to each of their parent’s homes. Plus, what if your son leaves his recorder at his mom’s, or your daughter forgot a book she needs for a school assignment? Will it be easy to run over to your ex’s to grab forgotten items? Or will you have to drive half an hour away just to pick something up?
If you do happen to need to grab something your child forgot, you should specify the details of this arrangement in your divorce agreement. Will the parent-on-duty have to call ahead to the parent-not-on-duty? Will a text to let them know you’re coming over suffice? It’s easier on all parties to live closer together, so no one has to travel too far if something like this happens or to drop off the kids. Especially if you have an arrangement like the 2-2-3 plan where your kids are switching between homes quite consistently, it will be less stressful for everyone to have the two homes close together.
5. Make Adjustments as Needed
The custody arrangement you make at the beginning of your divorce doesn’t have to be set in stone forever. Your kids will grow, and their needs and activities will change, as will yours and your ex’s. Sit down from time to time to figure out what works best and make adjustments when circumstances change. It’s important to keep in mind that both parents have to agree to the new arrangement. Just because you want a change doesn’t mean your ex will agree, and vice versa. If you can’t agree on the changes, you’ll have to go to court to have a judge rule in a custody hearing.
Joint custody can work if both parents can communicate well and respect each other. Remember, your kids and their needs always come first, so focus on that when you’re creating your custody arrangement and go from there.
(c) Can Stock Photo/JackF