After getting a divorce, joint custody is often the best arrangement for the children. The drawback is that it can be tricky for divorced parents to navigate successfully. In order for joint custody to work, the parents have to be in regular contact with each other and work together to make important decisions.
Recently, I interviewed my client John (not his real name) about how he has worked together with his ex to agree on custody issues. I interviewed John because he and his ex have done the best job I’ve ever seen at being parents together, even while moving on to other relationships themselves.
You’ve managed to parent with your ex remarkably well. Why is that important to you?
It's important because the well-being of my children is most important to me. The smoother the transitions can be between our homes, the better it is for the kids. Also, I think my ex is a reasonable person and a good parent even though we don’t agree on everything, and I am happy that my kids are around her
Joint parenting is hard. But it’s in the kids’ best interest to have equal time with both parents. They can receive love from both their mother and father. I think they actually benefit from the differences between us.
How do you communicate (phone, text, email, in-person) with the other parent?
Mostly by text. We use texts to plan the kids’ schedules. A real key for us has been staying flexible and open to the other person’s schedule. We use texts because it’s often at the last minute. We tried a joint online calendar at first, but it didn’t work well for us. That might be because I always forgot to look at it.
Did you have to work together to decide to work out a joint parenting plan?
It was never very much in question for us. We were both committed to sharing custody from the beginning. Our decision making process started by agreeing that we wanted our kids to stay in their current school system. My ex decided to stay in the same town even though she wanted to move away. After that, it was just a matter of choosing which days the kids would be at her home and which at mine.
How far out do you come up with a plan?
We have set days of the week and trade every other weekend as a routine. We plan holidays and trips and work travel six months out. We do our best to trade nights and weekends as needed to make it all work.
Having a set routine is really important for the kids. We’re flexible with each other but we try to keep to the routine as much as possible. I think it’s also good for the kids to see that we can be flexible, too.
Any tips for people who want to try a joint parenting plan?
I’ve watched some divorced parents who’ve been able to function in some ways like a family. They remain friends as well as parents. That didn’t happen for us, but I think it took me awhile to accept that we can still do a good job sharing the parenting without being good friends. Our relationship is only a working relationship about the kids, and that’s okay. It’s very possible to do this without remaining connected to each other on any other level.
Hopefully, John’s words will provide some inspiration and guidance for you if you are navigating joint custody. Remember, if you are able to have a successful co-parenting relationship with your ex, it’s your children who will benefit most.
Need help navigating your own divorce or custody arrangement?
Contact me: (802) 255-1252