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Shared Parenting After Divorce: Making Joint Custody Work

by | May 7, 2024 | Child Support

Joint custody, also known as shared parenting, is an arrangement where both parents have the legal responsibility to care for and make decisions regarding their children after a divorce. With joint custody, the children spend time living with each parent. For joint custody to work effectively, parents must be willing to cooperate, communicate regularly, and put their children’s best interests first. Here are some tips for making shared parenting a success.

Communicate Regularly

Open and frequent communication is key to making joint custody work smoothly. Parents should talk to each other often about schedules, rules, disciplines, activities, health, school, or anything relating to the children. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly phone calls or in-person meetings to discuss important issues as they arise. Keep conversations cordial and focused on the kids. Use tools like OurFamilyWizard to share information. The more both parents know, the easier it is to coordinate parenting responsibilities.

Be Flexible

With joint custody, schedules and routines will inevitably change as children go between two homes. Parents need flexibility regarding parenting time, schedules, vacations, etc. When conflicts arise over time-sharing or changes in plans, compromise and focus on the childrens’ best interests. Being rigid or inflexible will cause problems. Expect that unpredictable events will happen, and be willing to make adjustments.

Follow Consistent Rules and Disciplines

Children thrive on consistency and do best when parents enforce similar rules and disciplines between the two households. Parents should discuss their parenting styles and agree on consistent expectations around bedtimes, homework, chores, privileges, etc. Children often act out more when parents have very different rules and expectations. A united front minimizes confusion.

Support Relationships with the Other Parent

Children benefit when both parents support the relationship with the other parent. Never criticize or speak negatively about the other parent in front of the kids. Children often feel torn loyalty when parents fight. Validate the children’s feelings for the other parent. Encourage regular communication between the kids and the other parent. Nurturing both relationships leads to better outcomes.

Keep Conflicts Away from Children

Even amicable divorces involve some conflict between ex-spouses. It’s vital for joint custody success that parents shield children from adult disagreements and tensions as much as possible. Never argue in front of the kids. If needed, wait until the children are with the other parent or use phone calls, emails, or mediation to work out differences. Exposure to ongoing conflict can harm children emotionally.

Allow Flexibility in Schedules

Rigidly adhering to set custody schedules can be stressful on children as they adjust to two homes. Allow some flexibility for changes based on kids’ needs and activities. For example, allow a swap if one parent wants to attend the child’s sports game or school event that falls during the other parent’s time. Some fluidity helps children feel supported by both parents.

Communicate with Teachers, Doctors etc.

To provide consistent care, both parents need to be involved and informed about the childrens’ schooling, medical care, activities, and other services. Set up systems where both parents can access records, communicate with teachers, and doctors, and sign permission slips. Attend parent-teacher conferences together, if possible. The more informed both parents are, the better.

Focus on Compromise and Problem-Solving

Joint custody requires lots of compromise between parents. Maintain realistic expectations of your ex and be willing to negotiate conflicts. See a divorce coach or mediator when needed to resolve issues productively. Stay solution-focused and remind yourself that you’re parenting partners now. An adversarial approach will not work. Compromise is key.

Don’t Use Kids as Messengers

Children should never be put in the middle of the parents’ relationship issues. Don’t use them to convey messages or child support payments to the other parent. Likewise, don’t probe children for information about the other parent’s home life, relationships, etc. This parental alienation harms kids. Communication should happen directly between the parents, not through the kids.

Put Children First

The number one rule of successful joint custody is keeping the children’s welfare first. All decisions should be made based on their best interests, not parental interests. If conflict arises, parents should ask “What works best for the kids in this situation?” Joint custody requires parental maturity, cooperation and setting aside differences for the sake of the children. With focus and commitment, parents can make joint custody achieve positive outcomes.

It’s always best to work with an experienced divorce lawyer when negotiating custody arrangements. We can help you reduce conflict and move forward. Get in touch today by visiting one of our offices below.

  • Bellevue – 10900 Northeast 4th St, Suite 2300, Bellevue, WA 98004
  • Kirkland – 1207 Market St. Kirkland, WA 98033

Call now for a free consultation on (206) 792-0981.