Joint Custody Arrangements

Tips For Parents on How to Make Custody Work

In a custody dispute, it is very likely that a court will order a joint custody arrangement. The ability to have a substantial and meaningful relationship with both parents serves the best interests of the child.  However, parents who have had a difficult breakup may have difficulty sharing joint child custody.  Here are some tips on how you make a joint custody agreement work for all parties involved:

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Communication is Key

Mother and father holding hands of happy son at park
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Work on communicating clearly with your co-parent. Avoid arguing in front of the children and always put the kids' interests first.  If your communication is already working well, try to do things together with your children, on occasion.  The children will benefit from seeing the two of you sharing your parental responsibilities.

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Develop a Successful Parenting Plan

Working on their own business
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One of the best ways to make a successful joint custody arrangement work is by documenting your schedule using a parenting plan. Parenting plans help parents establish principles and guidelines for each other and their child.  Parenting plans should include a schedule regarding with whom the child will reside on a day-to-day basis, a schedule of how holidays and school vacations are handled, as well as a list of who makes important decisions on matters that affect the child.  If either parent violates the joint custody agreement, a court may utilize the parenting plan as evidence of the specific joint custody arrangements made between the parents.

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School and Social Gatherings

Primary school children in a classroom shot from behind.
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In a joint custody arrangement, parents can generally manage to avoid spending much time together, if they prefer.  However, a conflict may arise when parents are called upon for school events or sporting events.  Parents should anticipate times like this and come up with a plan for how to handle occasions that require both parents to attend.  If the relationship between the parents is not good, they may need to take turns attending events.  However, because joint custody serves the best interests of the child, it is best for parents to find a way to deal with each other during those limited times.

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Present a United Front With the Children

Successful young team
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Children are more intuitive than we give them credit.  Therefore, in a joint custody arrangement, it is important to present a unified front with children as it will not be good for a child to believe he/she can use one parent against the other.  Unilateral decision making can cause great confusion between the children and have a negative effect on the communication between the parents and the child.

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Be Flexible

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Although, it’s a great idea to develop a parenting plan to determine where the child is expected to reside on certain days in a joint custody arrangement, it’s equally important to be flexible.  There may be times, when one parent’s schedule day may not work due to emergency conflicts.  During emergency situations, a co-parent should work with the other parent to accommodate scheduling difficulties as best as possible.