Popular belief in the last decade was that joint custody children suffered more stress than those children who lived with one parent. But this thinking has since been turned on its head by new research that studied data from 150,000 teens. The data pulled was from teens aged 12 to 15, and it studied the children’s psychosomatic symptoms. For example, headaches, stomach-aches, feeling sad, difficulty focusing, etc.
The most surprising bit about this study? Kids who split their time between two parents had fewer problems compared to children who only lived with one.
This is good news for parents getting separated or divorced. But family law advice tells us there are still challenges to be aware of with this arrangement.
Here are 3 aspects of sharing child custody you should know about as you decide how you will split parenting duties.
- Increased interaction with your ex-partner.
Other arrangements may have allowed you to minimize the amount of time spent with your ex.
With shared child custody, however, parents must make decisions about their children’s care together. For example, decisions regarding after school clubs, or medical decisions, etc.
If your divorce or separation was amicable, this might not be a problem. If your divorce left you feeling raw, hurt, and unable to have a civil conversation with your ex? Then needing to figure out logistics with your ex will be a challenge for you. Your ex may have deferred to your wishes when it came to child rearing in the past. But he or she may no longer feel so accommodating.
How can parents sharing joint custody surmount this issue? Experts suggest deferring the decision to a third party when disagreements arise. Alternatively, parents can also use mediators to help smooth over communication flare ups.
- Children may feel stuck in the middle.
Data seems to suggest children of shared custody households are less stressed than children living with one parent. However, the scars that such arrangements leave on adult children of shared custody arrangements have yet to be evaluated. If parents are not careful, they can use their children in subtle and unconscious ways to keep tabs on their ex. Or to make themselves feel better about their own situation. Children may feel pressure to take sides in a disagreement, or to profess their love for one parent over the other.
In order to make a shared arrangement work, parents must be on guard to never disparage the other parent in front of their child. Other tips from HelpGuide.org include the following:
- Do not use your children as messengers. If you cannot handle communicating with your ex directly, get a friend to pass a message along. But never ask your kid to pass a message along for you.
- Do not involve your children in your disagreements. If you are having a disagreement with your ex, keep that to yourself. There is no reason for you to share this information with your child.
- Practice and improve your communication skills. Peaceful communication with your spouse that leads to child rearing success is a goal worth striving for. It may take time, classes, self-help books, and/or seminars. But the purpose is so that your child will grow up in a stable and loving environment.
- In the name of fairness.
Splitting custody exactly down the middle often is more about parents insisting on getting their fair share. But this may not be what your child needs at the time. For example, your child may be going through something that you know your ex is better at handling. Or there may be an opportunity for your child that is closer to where your ex lives. In such situations, it pays to be flexible and always to keep your child’s well being at the forefront of your mind.
Are you starting to focus on making sure neither you nor your spouse are getting more time than your share? This should be a warning sign to you that your priorities are off. Realign your priorities by asking yourself what is best for your child at each turn. Rather than what appeals to your sense of fairness.
There is no one custody solution that will work best in all situations. Instead, parents must determine what would best suit their children’s personalities. Along with what both parents are capable of pulling off. Being aware of the challenges involved with sharing custody will help you reach a good decision.