How to make sure custody and access is fair for your kids
Divorce is difficult on everybody in the family, including the children.
The family unit takes a different shape following a divorce or separation, where parents need to learn how to maintain civil relations and fairness in new parenting roles.
Custody and access can be contentious issues to resolve for two separating parents, but it’s important to put aside your personal differences and arrive at a fair arrangement for your children.
How can you reach a fair custody and access arrangement when you can’t reconcile your relationship differences?
We help couples with this difficult and important aspect of separation and divorce, and these rules go a long way toward improving the lives of children in divorced families better.
Don’t talk down about your ex
Children do two things when a parent speaks poorly of the other:
- They internalize those feelings of anger and put themselves in the middle as the cause.
- They are influenced by the words of a parent and begin to absorb those feelings themselves, even if the criticism from one parent is untrue.
Whether you have justified bad feelings about your ex or not, it’s unfair to place your feelings on the children and influence their parental relationship in that way.
Fair custody involves dignity for everybody, including your ex, because it helps the children move on and experience healthy relationships.
Remember, custody is about the kids, not you
The divorce was about you, but custody is about the kids. It not about getting exactly what you want, but giving the kids exactly what’s best for them.
Sometimes this involves a lot of self-reflection to find the line where your wants creep into the discussion.
If you can maintain clarity about the best arrangement for the wellbeing of your children, you’ll be happier with your custody and access arrangement in the long term, and your kids will thank you.
Be realistic about logistics
Parents can make unrealistic custody grabs based on fear or insecurity.
You will have time commitments where your ex-partner would take care of the kids were you still together, so it’s reasonable to think there will be many times when you need your ex to have balanced access to the children now.
If you couldn’t take your kids to all the hockey games when you were married, you won’t be able to when you are divorced.
Do your best to think clearly about time commitments and availability so the children don’t miss out on the things they love.
What else plays into fair arrangements for the kids?
You and your ex-partner can lay out a very detailed and balanced custody arrangement when you think carefully about:
- Your children’s ages and personalities
- Career and social commitments for each parent
- School and extracurricular activities your children participate in.
- Your own extracurricular activities (you still have to have your own social time!)
- The distance between the parents’ homes.
Remember – a bad partner can be a great parent
Even though your ex-partner couldn’t keep up his/her end of the deal in your marriage doesn’t mean they aren’t a great parent.
You might make better co-parents than you did partners.
And your kids will benefit from civility in your ongoing co-parenting relationship (especially when each of you find new partners).
Agree on an easy and convenient way to communicate
Communication in your new co-parenting roles is key.
Good communication will help everything feel smoother and more comfortable for your children.
Find an online tool offering communication tools like joint calendars and shopping logs or document storage for things like immunization and school records.
Nothing is set in stone. Agree to review the arrangement from time to time to adjust to your children’s changing needs
Kids grow and learn and change. Your custody arrangement can change with them.
Maybe your kids decide to quit playing hockey, so your Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday arrangements can change. Or maybe your career changes and you become more available on weekends.
Whatever gives the children the best opportunity for comfort, safety and personal growth is good for everybody. When your circumstances change, talk with your ex-partner about what can change with it.
Remember, custody and access isn’t about you, or gaining power over your ex-partner. It’s about ensuring your children can thrive in the new family dynamic and each parent can contribute to that success in their own way.
We can help achieve a fair and dignified access arrangement for the new shape of your family.