Studies have found that children who spend at least 35% of their time with each of their parents have better academic, social, and psychological outcomes. Joint custody is becoming more common and courts are eager to settle on agreements whereby children get to spend time with both of their parents.
In some instances of joint custody, there is one parent with primary custody. In other words, they have physical care of the child more frequently and they often make the majority of the child’s legal decisions, as well. What about in cases of 50/50 custody?
50/50 custody is exactly what it sounds like. Both parents share equal responsibility, equal physical care, and equal legal care. The question is, how do two divorced parents make 50/50 custody work?
Read on to find out more about what you and your former partner can do to get and maintain 50/50 custody!
What Do You Need to Prove to Get 50/50 Custody?
For starters, custody laws vary by state. While all states will consider granting joint custody, they may take into account different factors when making this decision. For example, many states heavily consider the child’s personal wishes while others focus primarily on each parent’s practical ability to provide for the child.
In order to get 50/50 custody, there are a few factors that are almost always required of both parents.
Some joint custody agreements can be reached even when parents live in separate states. For example, some courts will rule that a parent can have joint legal custody from afar. Some children will spend summers with one parent and the school year with another.
However, with a 50/50 custody agreement, it is imperative that the parents live in the same area. Since the child will spend time with both of you equally, you will both be responsible for getting them to school, extracurriculars, doctor’s appointments, and more.
Living close by ensures that your child will maintain stability even as they move between both households on a regular basis!
Financial Stability and Availability
Although love and support is always a key factor in custody agreements, the court must consider money, too. While you or your former spouse might agree to shoulder more of the financial responsibility for raising your child, the court needs to ensure that you are both capable of providing necessities. That way, even if your informal agreements change in the future, the child’s needs will still be covered.
At the same time that financial stability will improve your odds of getting 50/50 custody, you will also need to prove that you are available for this kind of parenting schedule. The court will want to know what kind of hours you work, how often you are required to travel, and how flexible your job is in the event of an emergency.
For example, will your boss let you leave work early if you get a call from your child’s school saying that they are ill? How often will you need help from a nanny, babysitter, or child care program? If one parent is substantially less available than the other, the court will probably push for the available parent to have primary joint custody.
Emotional Connection and Involvement
Emotional connection is where your child’s wishes come into play most heavily. You are most likely to get a 50/50 custody agreement if you can demonstrate that your child is has a deep emotional connection with both of you, rather than one over the other.
Studies have found that gender bias often comes into play, even in a court of law. Many people operate on the belief that mothers have deeper connections with their children and the innate ability to stay involved in their child’s life. Unfortunately, this gender bias does contribute to the difficulty fathers may face in trying to fight for their own custody rights.
An emotional connection may be hard to measure, which is why establishing involvement is crucial in custody cases. If you are hoping for a 50/50 custody agreement, it is imperative that you both document evidence of their even involvement in your child’s life.
Emotional and Mental Stability
Now is the time to set aside any personal disagreements and work together to show the court that you both believe in each other’s ability to raise your child. No matter how much the court wants to grant 50/50 custody for the sake of the child, they can only do so if they’re certain that both parents are willing to cooperate with one another.
Note that emotional and mental stability extends beyond your treatment of one another. If either parent has a history of mental illness that could reasonably put themselves or the child in danger, the path towards custody may be strained. The court will need to see that the parent in question is actively participating in a treatment plan and that the treatment plan is effective.
We Got 50/50 Custody. Now What?
Most states will want to see some kind of parenting plan before they officially grant 50/50 custody. Parenting plans cover the basic weekly schedule as well as decision-making methods you will use, amongst other things.
50/50 custody is a fantastic option for many children but it does require some serious thought and work on the parents’ end. We’re going to talk about some of the things you can do to make 50/50 custody work. Not only will these considerations help you talk through your parenting plan but they’ll help you find ways to work together as a team in spite of your separation.
Stay on the Same Page
We’re all human, right? It’s not unthinkable that miscommunications will occur. For example, you might think your former spouse agreed to watch your child this weekend when they actually said next weekend.
To avoid these kinds of mishaps, take advantage of growing technology to stay on the same page. Manage your calendar, shared financial responsibilities, and more with online tools and services. Synchronizing your availability, responsibilities, and even your observations about your child’s development will ensure that you both have all of the resources available to work as a team from separate households.
Plan Your Flexibility
Planning your flexibility sounds counterintuitive, but hear us out. You can’t predict the unforeseen but you can come up with a gameplan to deal with last-minute changes to your schedule!
Imagine scenarios in which one parent becomes indisposed.
For example, what will you do if the parent who is scheduled to pick up your child from school experiences car trouble? Will the other parent fill in? Is there a trusted friend or relative you can both call upon in these types of situations?
Having multiple back-up plans is a great way to avoid frustration and confusion. Remember that although you may both be two single parents, you are raising the same child. What happens to the child when one or both of you run into unexpected circumstances is still the business of both parents.
Establish a Mode of Communication and Connection
It’s not always easy to keep lines of communication open with a former partner. You may have interpersonal problems that make communication difficult or unpleasant. For that reason, it’s best to come up with a day-to-day communication and connection plan that will cause the least amount of stress or strain.
If talking on the phone opens the door to negative conversations unrelated to your child, consider relying on texting or email for your regular correspondence. Keep all discussions focused on the child and your responsibilities as parents.
As far as connection goes, we’re referring to the moments when you may come into face-to-face contact out of necessity. For example, you may both be present for drop-offs, doctors’ appointments, and parent-teacher conferences. You may want to establish ground rules in advance.
Remember that in emergencies, your typical methods and ground rules may have to be set aside. For example, while you may avoid phone calls on a regular basis, they are still the fastest and most direct way to reach one another. Setting aside personal differences for the sake of your child is always the sign of strong parenthood!
Get Connected to Make 50/50 Custody Work
Parents who get 50/50 custody of their child are in a unique situation. In spite of their separation, they must maintain a certain degree of closeness in order to parent as a team.
For that reason, there are parenting tools affordable and easy to set up, access, and use.