Shared Custody: 3 Strategies for Handling Who Gets the Kids

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by Chris Torrone

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12.22.2021

Divorce is hard enough without having to deal with custody issues. Parenting after divorce is challenging, especially when you are in the middle of trying to figure out who gets the kids after divorce. Even the idea of new custodial arrangements, including a number of shared custody possibilities, can prompt negative feelings. So, here are some tips and strategies to help you through this difficult time. 

Strategy #1: Establish ground rules

Deciding how to share custody of your children can be an emotional minefield of strong feelings, in addition to presenting logistical challenges. The best strategy to start with is to establish ground rules for discussion with your ex. The first rule should always be that you put the best interest and wellbeing of your children first. A close second should be that you will speak to and about each other with respect. If you have those ground rules in place, you and your ex can confidently work through creating a plan that provides for your children’s needs. While you may differ about what is actually in the best interest of your child, if you can commit to respectful conversation and treatment of each other, you’ll be able to discuss sharing time with your children in a productive manner. This approach will be best, not only for your children, but also for you. If you can keep your children’s feelings and needs a priority, you will better be able to work with your ex to find a viable solution to a custody arrangement.

father and child spending time together during shared custody

Strategy #2: Thinking creatively about residential time

When people think about strategies for handling who gets the kids after divorce, shared custody is often the first thing that comes to mind. However, the phrase “shared custody” can cover a wide range of arrangements. What works for one family may not work for another, and sharing time with children is complex and unique for every family. Here are some common strategies that you and your ex can consider, keeping in mind the best interest of your children.

For many families, the goal of the parents is for them to have an equal amount of time with their children. This can look like a one week or two week trade-off, where the children stay with one parent for a set amount of time, then go to the other parent’s home. Similar joint custody arrangements could look like the children spending three days with one parent and three days with the other, and then taking turns on the seventh day of the week. For example, Sunday through Tuesday with mom, Wednesday through Friday with Dad, and alternating Saturdays with each parent.

One unique option that some families have found success with is for the children to remain in the family home while the parents are the ones that come and go. This provides more stability for the children, but also requires the financial ability for each parent to maintain a separate living space in addition to the upkeep and payments for the shared home. 

For various reasons, it may not work out logistically for parents to share a 50-50 schedule with their children. One parent may have a job that requires significant travel or extenuating personal circumstances that prevent them from being able to have their children with them on a more regular basis. One parent may need to take the role of single parent, to allow the other time to get established in a new home or job, or deal with other life matters that have been complicated by the divorce. The parents may agree that it is in the children’s best interest to live with one custodial parent, while the non-custodial parent commits to making regular time with their children when they are able to.

Parents that have their children’s best interest and heart will be able to work through the logistics and commit to a schedule that allows the non-residential parent to have meaningful time with their kids. This will support healthy relationships between the child and both parents.

Strategy #3: Get legal help

Deciding who gets the kids can get challenging if one or both parents is unwilling to budge on what they think is best. If you can’t come to an agreement with your ex, then your best step is to move forward with support from an experienced family law attorney. They can help you think through the best ways to present your reasons to a judge for why your recommendation will be in the best interest of your children. 

It can be scary to think about extending the timeline of your divorce, but having a family law attorney representing you is statistically more likely to help you get a positive outcome for yourself and your children.

And in many cases, having a lawyer on your side can be the only way to get a fair ruling when it comes to how you and your ex share your children after the divorce is final. If you are divorcing due to any kind of domestic violence, coercion, or other unsafe actions by your ex, then getting a lawyer involved is really the only strategy with which to move forward. 

Your lawyer can give you a buffer by communicating with your ex on your behalf. They can create a strong legal argument that demonstrates that your children are safest with you, especially if there was abuse involved in the marriage. And they can help you set reasonable expectations about the likely outcome of the judge’s decision as to how to share time with your children and your ex.

At Torrone Law, our lawyers will fight for your family to get the justice and peace they deserve. Your family’s wellbeing is our goal; contact us for a free consultation today.

For quick answers to some common custody questions, check out our frequently asked questions below. :

FAQ

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is the child custody agreement included in a marital separation agreement or in a final divorce decree.

What does residential custody of a child mean?

Residential custody is something that is agreed on by parents or enacted on by determination of the court. The residential parent is the parent with whom the child lives. The non-residential parent has parenting time with their child. A parenting time schedule outlines the specific times that a child can spend with each parent.

How do I establish a parenting plan and residential custody of my child?

The first thing you should do is talk to an experienced family law attorney. Establishing a parenting plan is a complex process. It involves determining the best interests of the child, considering all available evidence, including financial information, and creating a detailed plan that meets those needs. While courts prefer that parents reasonably come to an agreement on their own, even in the midst of divorce, a judge can also step in to make a final decision that is in the best interest of the children involved.

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