For divorcing parents, deciding how their children will spend time at both parent's households is a difficult decision. The shift towards joint custody over sole custody has gained momentum as the best option for children of divorced parents. While joint custody can be a viable option for parents and children alike, the arrangement comes with unique challenges for ex-spouses.
In order for joint custody to be appropriate, parents must be able to communicate frequently with each other in order to co-parent effectively. Children should not be used as pawns to exact revenge upon a former spouse. Similarly, lower child support payments should not be the goal of joint custody arrangements.
Joint custody challenges
When considering a joint custody arrangement, parents need to be able to shift the expectations of the spouse from a life-mate to a co-parent, and then establish new role boundaries. Below are some of the common challenges that arise in a joint custody arrangement.
- Joint custody is less stable than sole custody since parenting styles and routines differ.
- The arrangement involves frequent child transfers so it works best for parents who live close to one another.
- The schedule can be challenging for children as they are constantly shuttling between households.
- Both parents need to be able to manage the barrage of activities in children's schedules such as extracurricular activities, play dates, and appointments.
- The adjustment can be difficult for children who spent significant amounts of time with one parent before the divorce, especially in families where one parent was a stay at home parent.
Children have two parents and it makes sense for both parents to want an equal share of the parenting time. However, parents need to honestly assess their ability to be a single parent half of the time. Joint custody does not sustain the illusion of a family or shield children from the grief that accompanies divorce. Parents who do not fully understand the challenges of shared custody only make the divorce process worse. The best interests of your children should always be the goal.