Shared Custody: Helping Your Children Thrive
Divorce is rarely easy for any couple. For a couple with children, divorce often represents merely the beginning of a new reality which includes shared custody arrangements and coparenting. Depending on the circumstances of the divorce, it can be understandably difficult for many individuals to cooperate with their ex-spouse. However, child development and relationship experts maintain that being able to put aside or work through differences can have a significant positive impact on the health and happiness of the children.
While either parent may maintain primary custody following a divorce or separation, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 80 percent of custodial parents are mothers. This figure includes families with equal joint- or shared custody arrangements, which have become increasingly common as custodial mothers continue to work rather than relying solely on alimony or support awards. Shared custody typically means that children will be spending time at each parent’s home according to some sort of arranged schedule. Whether you are the primary custodial parent or not, there are some things you can do to help your child be more at ease with a potentially unsettling situation.
Feeling at home will provide a level of comfort to your child whether he or she is with you or the other parent. For some children, this can be simple as having some favorite toys or stuffed animals at both homes. Others may find that packing a treasured blanket to go back and forth with them is helpful. Over time, your child can also establish familiarity with some of the differences between Mom’s house and Dad’s house and become comfortable with those as well. For example, your child may be excited to use a particular cup or a plate with sentimental value at your place and while at the other parent’s house, he or she uses the same desk for homework that your ex grew up using.
Keep Your Child Informed
It is likely that you and your ex-spouse have a pretty good idea regarding when each of you will be spending time with your child. Make sure your child knows too, using a visible calendar, if necessary. Some shared custody arrangement are more flexible than others, but let your child know of the schedule as soon as possible. Your child will be better prepared to make the transition between homes than by springing the change on him or her at the last moment.
Establish Some Common Ground
Every family situation is going to require some fluidity, and customizing certain aspects of your family life will certainly be necessary. However, your child should be able to count on certain rules and priorities that remain in effect at both homes. Considerations such as bedtime routines, rules regarding when homework is to be completed, and consequences for unacceptable behavior are best left unchanged between houses or your child will quickly catch on and may be tempted to take advantage of the situation.
Divorced parents can find innumerable resources available online and in print regarding how to best provide for their children in a shared custody situation. However, if you live in Illinois and have questions about the custody order itself, or other issues such as child support, we can help. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney today for a consultation. We will answer your questions and assist you in understanding your options under the law.