How to Make the Best Out of a Joint Custody Agreement
How to Handle Joint Custody Properly
While there are many things that spouses will need to agree to when seeking a divorce, the most important involves joint custody. Of the nearly 750,000 divorces that were finalized in 2019, many of these cases involved some form of custody. If you and your ex-spouse have shared physical custody, figuring out the logistics of this new arrangement may take time.
Understand That This Agreement Isn’t About You
One of the most important things to remember as you begin this new journey is that the joint custody agreement isn’t about you. Even though the divorce itself was focused on the two of you, this component of your divorce is about your children. During the divorce, it’s common for people to have tunnel vision because of how emotionally draining the entire process can be.
If the divorce is relatively contentious, this can be an even bigger issue. While you and your estranged spouse may have arguments and heated discussions about how some of your assets are divided, your child shouldn’t be part of these arguments. The focus should be on what’s best for your child.
It’s also highly recommended that you avoid speaking negatively about your ex-spouse whenever your children are around. These sentiments can be internalized by your child if they are still at a somewhat young age. Even if these sentiments are completely justified, you should do your best to avoid speaking them.
Customize the Custody Arrangement
Every joint custody agreement is different. If you want this agreement to work for everyone involved, you should customize it in certain ways. Some factors that should be taken into account when creating this document include extracurricular and academic activities that your child is involved in, the social and career commitments that you and your ex-spouse have, the personalities and ages of your children, and how far away you live from your ex-spouse.
There are at least three distinct joint custody arrangements for you to consider, which include a 2-2-3 plan, a 2-2-5 plan, and an alternate week plan.
The 2-2-3 plan involves your child spending Monday and Tuesday with one parent, Wednesday and Thursday with the other parent, and Friday through Sunday with the first parent. The beginning of the week will then switch, which means that the second parent will have custody of the child on Monday and Tuesday.
The 2-2-5 plan involves spending Monday and Tuesday with the first parent and Wednesday and Thursday with the second parent. This portion of the plan will be the same every week. However, the final three days of the week will alternate between both parents. This particular schedule is ideal for children who are older and may have obligations and sports events to attend during the week. The alternate week plan is the simplest of the three and involves the child spending one week with one parent and the next week with the other.
Work on Your Communication
Communication is very important for the long-term success of any joint custody agreement. While you don’t necessarily need to be on great terms with your ex-spouse, it’s highly recommended that you find a way to speak civilly with them because of the need to organize custody.
Modern advancements in technology have made communication much easier than it once was. You can use Google Calendar and similar tools to organize every facet of the agreement. When you need to clarify aspects of custody, you could write an email or send a text to your ex-spouse, which can suffice if you’re still having difficulties being cordial when speaking to them in person. Over time, the emotional wounds from your divorce may heal, which will simplify communication even more.
Adjust the Agreement if Necessary
Joint custody agreements aren’t always perfect. Even when they are, the need may arise for changes to be made in the custody agreement. As children grow older and change, the custody agreement that worked when they were younger may no longer accommodate their needs.
For instance, it’s common for parents to start with the 2-2-3 custody agreement mentioned previously. Once children become teenagers, the 2-2-3 agreement may be too rigid, which is when you could switch to a 2-2-5 agreement or the alternate week method mentioned previously. Changes may also need to be made to other aspects of this document. The most important thing is to review the joint custody arrangement with your ex-spouse at regular intervals to determine if alterations should be made.
Allow Your Child to Have Their Say
Just like your life situation changes when you seek a divorce from your spouse, so too does your child’s situation. If your child is confused or upset about certain aspects of the custody agreement or your divorce in general, allowing your child to express their feelings is necessary if you want them to get through these changes without any emotional scars.
While it’s obviously going to be difficult to seek input from a toddler, older children can have at least some say in certain elements of the joint custody agreement. If you have a child who is now a teenager, they may be at an age when they play sports or engage in a range of other extracurricular activities. In this situation, you might want to see how your child feels about the custody schedule and if it suits their schedule in regards to sports and similar activities.
Even if your child is just 6 years old, you could seek their input about some of the smaller details of the agreement. For instance, your child could decide at which house their toys are kept. Just allowing their opinions to be heard may help improve their feelings about the entire situation.
Seek Assistance From Our New Jersey Divorce Attorney
When you’re in the midst of a divorce, trying to determine the particulars of a joint custody agreement could be difficult. Even if the divorce is amicable and both parties are speaking to one another, it may still prove to be challenging to identify the ideal balance that doesn’t make your child feel like they’re simply being transported from one parent to the other without any care about what works best for them.
Our New Jersey divorce attorney can help you navigate this situation and make an agreement that satisfies all of the involved parties. Our firm focuses primarily on family law and has extensive experience in providing counsel to individuals who are having to deal with joint custody and parenting issues.
If you have yet to create a joint custody agreement, we can work with you to develop a plan that meets the needs of your child while also accommodating the schedules of you and the other parent. While equal shared parenting time is the most common arrangement when a divorce occurs, there are times when this isn’t the ideal solution. Our lawyers will be by your side to determine what the best solution is.
Along with the weekly custody arrangement, it’s also essential that you take vacations, transportation, and holidays into account. If you don’t make a decision on these details now, a disagreement could arise in the future. Whatever your situation, our divorce lawyers are here to provide you with the counsel you need to develop a joint custody agreement you can be happy about.
If you are currently going through a divorce and have questions about how joint custody works, call our New Jersey divorce attorneys today at (201) 343-0078 to schedule a consultation and begin developing a joint custody agreement.