Getting a divorce is rarely a fun or easy process, especially when there are children involved. Child custody is often one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce settlement and can be painful for everyone. If possible, it’s always better to make a custody agreement, rather than letting the courts decide for you.
Creating a custody agreement that works for you, your ex, and your kids can be tricky. There are lots of factors to consider and it’s important to keep what’s best for your children at the top of the priority list at all times. Here are some things to consider when deciding who will get custody and when.
Type of Custody Arrangement
There are a few types of custody arrangements. When a parent takes on full physical and legal custody of a child, the other parent may get regular visits with them, but they live with the custodial parent the majority of the time and that parent makes any legal decisions. Sometimes, arrangements with sole physical custody involve joint legal custody, which requires parents to work together when making legal decisions for the kids.
Joint physical custody means that a child splits their time between both parents’ homes. Usually, this goes along with joint legal custody.
Deciding on the right custody arrangement for your family might seem simple, but it can get complicated. The court will be working to find a solution that is best for the children, and there are different criteria they consider in that process.
Living Arrangements & Schedules
In many cases, it makes sense for the parent who will be remaining in the family home to maintain physical custody. If neither of you will be staying in the home, then a joint custody arrangement might be a better fit.
Parents who travel frequently for work might not be able to care for their children much of the time and might be better suited to visitation agreements, rather than physical custody. This is also true for long-distance arrangements, such as if you will be living in another state from your ex.
Be realistic when considering what the most stable option will be for your kids. Having them remain in their own home and their own school can make the divorce process less painful and help them cope with the changes in their lives. Every situation is different, and you need to think about what you and your ex can each offer in providing a stable, loving environment.
Age of the Children
Older children might have a preference in where they live, and it’s important to consider that. This can be very painful for parents, but stability should be the most important factor in a custody agreement. Additionally, a parent’s willingness to help their child build or maintain a strong bond with the other parent will make a difference in a court’s custody deliberations.
Parental Mental and Physical Well-Being
If either you or your ex is suffering from a physical or mental health condition that might make it difficult for you to properly care for your children, that is something the court will take into consideration.
The court’s goal in custody matters is to ensure children’s safety and well-being, and if that is in question due to mental or physical illness, the other parent might be given sole custody. The court may also award custody to one parent if they feel that the other parent does not have adequate caretaking capacity. Family violence and neglect are sadly all too common and the court will be cautious if they think there might be a problem with a parent’s conduct and caretaking abilities.
Making Custody Agreements Specific
Understanding what the court will favor is critical when you’re trying to create a custody agreement that works for you, your children, and your ex. Be realistic, reasonable, and try your best to work together instead of against one another. This process isn’t about you—it’s about your kids.
When you do decide on a custody agreement, make it as specific as possible. It is much easier to enforce an agreement when the terms are clear and not open to interpretation. If your ex will be getting sole physical custody, for instance, make sure you have your visitation rights spelled out clearly. That way, you can be sure you get the amount of time with your children you are entitled to.
Try to Put Your Feelings Aside
Deciding on a custody arrangement can be an emotional process. You might get angry, sad, and frustrated during the discussions. But if you can, it’s best to be as objective as possible and think about what kind of life you want for your kids after the divorce. They deserve the best that you can give them.
This content is made possible by Andrew Deen.
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