Developing a Successful Joint Custody Arrangement
Submitted August, 1998
You've finally got your divorce decree and you feel you can now breathe a big sigh of relief. You may even be thinking, "no more lawyers, no more negotiations -- I can finally get on with my life without him/her." For the most part, you are right -- your professional relationship with your family lawyer is over, and you are now in a better position to make decisions about your future. However, here's the rub! As a parent in a joint custody arrangement, your relationship with your ex spouse will continue as long as your children are part of your lives.
This reality check often comes as a huge shock to newly divorced couples. After all, the reason they chose to dissolve their marriages is because they didn't get along and wanted to go their separate ways. What now! The good news is, there is life after divorce, especially for a joint custodial parent. The challenge for couples however, is to redefine their relationship and learn ways of developing cooperative co-parenting plans based on their shared concerns for their children.
In redefining a relationship, former spouses need to make some important shifts in thinking and feeling. An area of difficulty for many is making the shift from being emotionally married to being emotionally divorced; moving from a relationship based on intimacy to one that is more businesslike in nature. The major problems lie in the area of personal boundaries. People make the mistake of feeling that they still have the same call on each other as they did while married. For example, an ex wife may feel she is still entitled to know with whom her ex husband has lunch or whether he continues to hold season tickets to the Moose games. Likewise, an ex husband may feel he can still comment on his ex wife choice of clothing or how she wears her hair. Once divorced, these issues should clearly be no concern to either ex-partner. When couples are able to make this shift in thinking and feeling, the old buttons that could easily be pushed, no longer work. The emotional divorce is then complete.
In developing an effective and cooperative co-parenting plan, the following should be considered:
Each parent must recognize the other parent as being competent to care for the children and to have their best interests in mind
Each parent must be willing to give the other parent full authority to care for the children while they are in his/her care
Each parent must recognize that any criticism of the other parent made in the presence of their children is an affront against them (the children) and destructive and detrimental to their well-being
Each parent must be willing and able to put their personal feelings aside when communicating with the other regarding the children
Each parent must put their children's need for love, safety and security above their own needs.
When people meet these challenges, they will experience the following benefits of being a joint custodial parent.
Having the peace of mind that their children are being cared for by someone who loves them and has a vested interest in their well-being
Having the time to devote to one's own personal interests without having any undue worry about the well-being of the children while they are with the other parent
Knowing that there is someone with whom to share parenting problems and concerns
A joint custody arrangement can transform a once flawed relationship into a productive parenting effort where neither person feels that he or she is a "single" parent.
Copyright © 1998 Reena Sommer.All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you believe you may lawfully use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article under the Fair Use exception to copyright law, except as otherwise authorized by the author of the article, you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.
About the Author: Dr. Reena Sommer is a family life consultant with a private practice in Winnipeg. Telephone: (204) 487-7247.