Going through a divorce is a journey no one wants to be on, but learning how to share custody of your children is a different beast entirely. It seems almost cruel, doesn’t it? You and your partner no longer work well together, so you divorce. But you still have to see your ex and try to agree on every decision regarding your children. It can seem totally overwhelming and, I’ll be honest with you, it is. The logistics are a nightmare, and everyone’s emotions are running high. Even if you and your ex have an amicable split and decide to consciously uncouple a la Gwyneth and Chris, it’s still hard to decide who gets to see the kids on a random Wednesday night, who gets to play Santa this year, and who gets to take them to the beach every summer. You’re losing time with your child, and that can be a devastating blow, no matter how well you handle your divorce.
But sharing custody doesn’t have to be as painful as you expect. It’s hard to put away our own wants and fears, but focusing on the kids and how this affects them can make co-parenting much easier. The first big decision you’ll need to make is the type of custody you want to share with your ex. There are a few different options, and it all depends on how you and your ex parent. For some, you may want to speak with a lawyer to discuss options or mediation if you and your ex can’t agree.
There are three types of custody arrangements:
Physical custody is exactly what it sounds like. The parent who has physical custody has the child living with them and is responsible for their day-to-day care. Joint physical custody is when time is adequately split between the two parents and the child goes back and forth between homes. The amount of time with each parent is something you and your ex will have to decide upon. Some children do well spending a week with each parent, others require more structure and only stay at the other parent’s home on the weekends. Again, each family is different, so you’ll have to make these decisions based off of your child.
Legal custody means a parent is responsible for making decisions on the child’s upbringing such as school, religion, and medical care. Many divorced parents opt for joint legal custody so that they both have a fair say in the raising of their child. Sole custody is when only one parent has both legal and physical custody of the child.
Once you’ve decided on the type of custody you’ll share and handled the logistics, like who has your child on Halloween and who is responsible for the medical bills, you’ll still have to do the hard part — sharing custody with your ex. Like making your custody decisions, keeping your child in mind can make sharing custody a bit easier. Here are five tips to help you learn how to share custody without going crazy:
1. Trust Your Ex
Your ex loves your child just as much as you do, and your child loves your ex like they love you. Trust that your ex will make the right decisions for your child while he or she is in their care. If you do, sharing custody won’t seem as stressful or worrisome.
2. Don’t Bad-Mouth Your Ex
Whether your child is around or not, try to keep the bad-mouthing of your ex to a minimum. It’s negative energy and it doesn’t deserve any space in your co-parenting relationship.
3. Pick Your Battles
Your ex is going to be twenty minutes late to pick up your kid, and that sucks, but it’s not worth blowing up the peace. If it becomes a reoccurring thing, offer to change the pick-up time in your custody arrangement. Pick your battles and remember that just because they are your ex doesn’t mean they deserve to be judged for every tiny detail.
4. Follow Your Custody Agreement
You managed to agree on it, and you need to follow it. If Wednesday nights are when your kid sees your ex, don’t plan something for you and your child to do that night. Follow your agreement and if you think there needs to be changes made, let your ex know so you can do it through the court.
5. Be Realistic
You can’t expect your ex to go along with everything you suggest, so be realistic about your requests. Parenting alone is hard, and when you’re real with yourself and remember that your ex is there to help, it can only make sharing custody easier. Need a babysitter on your night? Ask your ex. Running late to pick your kid up from school? Call your ex for help. Be realistic about your capabilities and remember that you’re human, not a programmed robot.