Child Custody After Divorce – A Primer
There are obviously a lot of raw nerves, hurt feelings and bruised egos in divorce proceedings, but when a child is involved a certain degree of tact and civility is vital. Nothing hurts children more than seeing their parents act like monsters, and nothing makes adults act like monsters more than divorce. Our advice: set a good example for your child throughout the proceedings – act like a superhero instead of a monster.
Now, with the soapbox out of the way, let’s discuss the basics of child custody after divorce.
If you want to avoid an emotional court battle over child custody, there are three general steps to handling child custody after divorce: 1) Create a co-parenting plan with your ex (amicably if possible); 2) memorialize your parenting plan in writing and submit it to the court 3) stick to the plan.
Work it out – Create a Co-Parenting Plan That Works
As frustrated as you may get with your divorce, imagine being a judge. Judges have no idea what’s actually working for your family. All they have to rely upon is what you and your ex tell them. And you two probably don’t agree. How can they possibly know what’s best?
Don’t leave it up to a judge to sort out your tangled family web. It’s always best to work out a child custody plan with your ex outside of the court system. The universe of possible custody arrangements is as endless as your imagination, so create something that works for everyone, especially for your children. If you can’t come up with anything, or if you need help getting started, call us – we resolve child custody matters every day, and we’re happy to help.
Details on Various Plans
Joint custody is usually viewed as the best solution to resolving issues around child custody after divorce. It keeps both parents involved in the child’s life, and offers the emotional and financial stability that children desperately need. There are extreme examples in which sole custody is a must (physical abuse, alcohol/drug addiction, etc.), but in most cases joint custody is strongly recommended. If one parent pushes for sole custody without grounds, things get ugly fast. Trust us, it’s best for parents to bury the hatchet and amiably work out their issues with child custody after divorce.
Joint custody doesn’t mean that parents will necessarily split time with the children down the middle, nor does it mean that the parents have to consult each other on every detail of the child’s life. It does, however, guarantee that both parents remain active and engaged in their child’s life. If the parents share physical as well as legal custody, then they’re able to put their heads together to make the big decisions for their child – medical, educational, religious, etc.
Splitting time exactly down the middle is rarely possible, and the courts discourage you from thinking about your parenting plan in terms of percentages. That said, one common schedule that reflects an even split is called a 2-2-5-5 plan. This is a plan in which the child alternates two days with each parent and then five days with each parent, and results in evenly shared weekend time. For very young children, this schedule may not work as well if five days away from either parent is too long, so another common schedule with an even split is a 2-2-3. With this schedule, the child is with one parent two days, the other for two days, and then the other for three days, and so on, which also results in evenly shared weekend time. The 2-2-3 works quite well for young children because it essentially creates extended weekends with each parent, yet no parent is away from the child for more than three days.
Memorialize Your Parenting Plan
Once you have created a co-parenting plan, you should memorialize it in writing, and submit that writing to the court. Any parenting plan that’s not in writing is nearly impossible to enforce. Once submitted to and accepted by a court, a written parenting plan becomes an order of the court and can be enforced by other courts. Don’t get caught without an unenforceable agreement – you worked too hard to get this agreement in place to let it be destroyed on a whim.
Finally, you’ve got an agreement in place, now stick to it. If you don’t, you risk violating the terms of your agreement, which could result in the entire thing being thrown out.
We’re big supporters of the negotiated and amicable process. If you have reached agreement with the other parent, or need help getting to that point, we’re happy to help you negotiate, draft and submit your agreement to a court. Call us anytime.