In 2018, there were over 700,000 divorces in America. That’s about 39% of married couples. It’s a staggering statistic, but divorces occur for many reasons.
The important thing, especially if there are children involved, is for parents to continue to provide the best possible life for them. Many, including the legal system, believe the key to this is joint physical custody. This is new to many couples who may ask themselves: Should we use joint custody?
To find out, you must first understand what joint custody is. You should also learn some of its advantages. It may seem overwhelming, but fear not—the statistics above show that you are not alone.
Many couples with children have successfully navigated a separation or a divorce. So if you’re still asking yourself, “Should I try joint custody?” read on to learn more.
What Is Joint Custody?
Joint custody may not mirror the life your child knew before the separation or divorce. But it is the closest they will get to having both parents equally involved in their life.
It allows both parents to have legal or physical custody of their child/children.
Types of Custody
When it comes to the court deciding custody arrangements, most judges prefer to grant joint custody. It’s deemed to be in the child’s best interest when both parents have some involvement in their child’s life, as well as their upbringing.
However, this may not be feasible if parents live miles apart or have a hard time communicating or getting along. It also becomes a problem if either parent has a history of domestic violence.
Depending on the situation, the judge may decide on one of the following options.
Legal Custody: A parent with sole legal custody makes major decisions on behalf of their child. It includes decisions about the child’s education and religion. However, even if one parent has sole legal custody, both parents are still involved in medical decisions. The parent without custody also has access to the child’s school records.
Shared Legal Custody: With shared custody, both parents make these decisions.
Physical Custody: Physical custody determines where a child resides. If one parent has sole physical custody, the child spends the majority of their time with that parent. The other parent usually has regularly scheduled visitations.
Joint Physical Custody: With joint physical custody, both parents may not spend equal time with their child. However, the time the child does spend with each parent will be substantial.
Advantages of Joint Custody
Determining if joint custody is right for your situation is challenging. The most important thing is that you base your decision on what’s in the best interest of your child.
This is something the courts also consider when making custody decisions. Agreeing with your ex-partner without any involvement from the legal system is usually best. After all, as parents, you know what’s best for your child.
They’re also many advantages to joint custody. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest ones.
A Positive Impact on Your Child
Joint custody makes the separation less impactful on your child. This is especially true if parents live near to each other. The joint custody agreement should reflect what’s best for your child’s needs.
This is most beneficial for the child when parents put their differences aside. It means finding common ground to successfully co-parent. Success is also assured if there is a conscious effort to reduce friction and arguments.
Time With Both Parents
Your child gets to spend time with both of you. So, you’ll both be equally involved in your child’s life. It also means both of you can influence your child, instilling your childhood values, life experiences, family history, and unique parenting style.
Together, you can both make lasting memories and share both the challenges and joys of childhood. The involvement of both parents ensures neither of you will miss out on the major milestones in your child’s life. You will both be present.
This is something your child will remember and appreciate, especially as they get older. Absence also makes the heart grow fonder. The time apart from your child will make both of you appreciate your time together even more.
Lessened Feelings of Guilt
Children often have feelings of rejection when a parent moves out. It can often result in a feeling of loss and lowered self-esteem. They also tend to be more anxious or even depressed when they don’t have access to both parents.
Joint custody reduces the feelings of anger that this can create. Access to both parents also lessens feelings of guilt as your child feels free to love both parents. Good co-parenting enhances this.
Your child won’t feel they’re losing a parent. It leaves them free to focus on being a kid and growing up healthy.
Sharing of Daily Responsibilities
Both parents share daily responsibilities that have an impact on their children. This includes expenses and all the things involved in raising a child. You will get to make decisions about your child’s upbringing together.
This mutual decision-making helps to reduce stress on each parent as making life decisions for your child is a huge responsibility. It is even more stressful when you have to do it on your own. The input from both parents is also beneficial to the child.
Maintaining Structure and Discipline
Joint custody allows parents to share the responsibility of discipline. Creating and discussing rules about discipline ensures you and your ex are on the same page. This is important especially if your child tries to use one parent against the other to get what they want.
It will also mean enforcing appropriate consequences. A team approach is best and helps your child have structure and boundaries even after the separation or divorce.
Shared Financial Responsibility
You won’t only share major decisions such as schooling and religion. You will also share financial responsibilities. This includes the sharing of incidental costs that may crop up when your child is with you.
Inevitably, you will also share the cost of everyday items such as field trips, school supplies, or snacks for extra-curricular activities.
A Regular Routine for Your Child
Schedules and routines are important because they give children confidence and a sense of belonging. The great thing about this is that, as a parent, you can also benefit from a set schedule. You can discuss options with your ex-partner.
According to Aha Parenting, children “handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine”. This is more important than ever after a separation or divorce. Routines also help children:
- Feel comfortable with what is happening and what is to follow
- Feel more in control of their situation
- Feel secure and safe
Fall into a routine that works best for all parties involved, especially your child.
Making Time for Self-Care
“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” Eleanor Brown
Your routine will allow you to plan. Although joint custody allows you to share responsibility, you are still parenting on your own when your child is in your care. This can be tiring.
When your child is with your ex-partner, you can take the time to replenish your energy. Schedule self-care activities. Doing this allows you to stay mentally, emotionally, and physically strong for yourself and your child.
Investing in Your Future as Well as Your Child’s
You can use the time your child is away from you to invest in your career. This can help you plan financially for your child’s future, which may also include saving for their college tuition.
You can put in extra hours at work on the days your child isn’t with you. The extra time and commitment to your work can help you move up in your career. A work promotion will also include an increase in compensation which you can use to take care of your child’s needs.
Less Stress on Everyone Involved
It’s easier for everyone involved when everyone gets along. Seeing you have an amicable relationship with your ex, or that a stepparent is involved and also onboard has a positive impact on your child.
Dating Is Easier
It may be a while before you are ready to move on after a separation or a divorce. However, when you are ready, joint custody will make dating easier without disrupting your child’s life.
You can schedule dates on the days you don’t have your child. It allows you to meet someone without the pressure of having to introduce them to your child. It gives you space and time to see if things work out and decide if or when you want them to meet your child.
Disadvantages of Joint Custody
Although the pros outweigh the cons, there are some potential disadvantages of joint custody you’ll want to be aware of. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
The Negative Impact
Joint custody can also have a negative impact on a child. But this is usually only if the parents don’t get along. The friction between parents can make planning and scheduling tedious as well as stressful.
This inevitably has an impact on your child, as they may feel like they’re in the middle of it all. It may make them feel they have to choose between the two of you.
Lack of proper communication between parents may also leave a child feeling like a moderator. Parents may use them to pass messages along if they’re not willing to work together.
The variations in a child’s schedule can be disruptive, especially as your child moves from one home to the other often. If you’re not well-organized, this can become confusing and overwhelming for both you and your child.
It may mean leaving homework assignments, uniforms, or items used for extra-curricular activities at the wrong home. This can cause your child to worry needlessly and become stressed.
Being organized is key for joint custody to work. If not, it may lead to otherwise avoidable schedule conflicts. This can result in arguments over pick up and drop off arrangements, especially if it conflicts with one parent’s schedule.
Parents may also start comparing. One parent may perceive the other’s schedule as easier.
In cases where there is more than one child, expenses may increase for both parents. This is because it involves the maintenance of two homes. It may sometimes mean that each parent may need to purchase certain things your child/children may need.
An example would be a child who does basketball and is hoping to get a scholarship. Each parent may choose to install a basketball hoop to ensure their child’s success. Unfortunately, this may also lead to parents comparing who spends more.
Change Is Stressful
Change, although inevitable, is stressful for adults. It’s even more so for children, especially younger ones who thrive on a set routine. It becomes even worse if there is animosity between the parents.
Children can sense this and it can lead to changes in their behavior. They may become angry and lash out, or withdraw and lose interest.
Many of the disadvantages of joint custody can be eliminated or lessened based on the behavior or approach of the parents involved. This is great as it means you have control of how well joint custody can work for your family.
There are also many resources that can help make the transition a lot easier.
Making the Transition to Sharing Joint Custody
Separation and divorce can be stressful. It takes an emotional, mental and physical toll on all parties involved. Parents dealing with this should always keep their children in mind when making decisions.
Making these decisions as you transition to sharing joint custody with your ex-partner can be overwhelming. However, there is technology that can help to keep your new schedule organized. The more organized you are, the easier it will be on your child as they will have a set routine.
2houses gives you a handle on all the details involved. Our features assist you with scheduling, finances, messages, and so much more. We can put you one step closer to making this transition easier.
Register with us today to start organizing your new life to make the transition easier for your child as well.