How To Make Joint Custody Work

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Shared or joint custody is when a court awards the care and guardianship of a child in a divorce to both parents. Shared legal custody covers things like deciding activities, academics, and religion, whereas shared physical custody is when the child divides their time between both parents. If you’ve agreed on joint custody, it can take some time to work out the logistics. Here are some tips to make joint custody and co-parenting work. 

joint custody man carrying child

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Speak No Evil

Experts always give the same advice. Don’t speak badly about your ex. Badmouthing them can be tempting, but it will be internalized by your child, as they are made up of both you and your ex. What you say about your ex in front of your child is what they will react to and think about themselves.

No matter how hurt or angry you are, your child still loves their other parent. Regardless of how you feel, justified or not, keep it yourself. If you’re struggling to keep things civil, a child custody mediation attorney can help. 

Remember That It’s Not About You 

The divorce was about you, but custody is about your children. Divorce can cause emotional tunnel vision and it’s easy to focus on your own hurt and lose sight of the goal to create a good childhood. Custody isn’t about getting what you want or demanding equity at any cost. Remember that time with your child isn’t a prize to be won. 

Joint custody works best when both parents can put aside their egos and remember that what is best for your children is not always what feels good for you.

Be Realistic 

It’s common during a divorce for parents to make unrealistic grabs for custody out of fear or insecurity. Instead, try to set your emotions aside from the situation and look at the facts instead. Try to think of custody as like a business arrangement. 

Create A Customized Arrangement

When agreeing on custody, there are some things to take into consideration:

  • Your children’s age and personalities
  • Your family schedule
  • Both parents’ careers and commitments
  • Academic and extracurricular activities of your children
  • Your child-care arrangements and distance between each parent’s homes. 

There are three common joint custody arrangements that you could consider:

  • 2-2-3 plan. The child spends Monday and Tuesday with Mom, Wednesday and Thursday with Dad, Friday to Sunday with Mum, and then the schedule flips, with Monday and Tuesday with Dad, and so on. 
  • 2-2-5 plan. The child spends Monday and Tuesday with Mom, Wednesday, and Thursday with Dad, and then alternates Friday through to Sunday between the parents, spending one weekend with Mom and the next with Dad. This schedule can work better with children who are older and have their own schedule of obligations, whether playdates or practices. 
  • Alternative week plan. The child spends one week with Mom, then one with Dad, and so on. 

Infants usually stay in the primary care of their mothers, but toddlers and preschool-age children can actually benefit from switching between the two households.


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