In Washington, divorcing parents have a handful of options when it comes to structuring custody and parenting time after their divorce. One of these options is to establish a joint custody arrangement. When divorced parents share joint custody, each parent spends an equal (or roughly equal) amount of time with their children. For example, they may alternate custody on a weekly basis, or they may agree to an alternate arrangement that better suits their respective work schedules while also serving the best interests of their children.
While joint custody can be a good option under the right circumstances, it also inherently presents certain challenges for divorced parents. Divorced parents who share joint custody will need to continue to communicate, and they will need to be cooperative with one another in order to provide as much stability for their children as possible.
7 Tips for Maintaining an Amicable Joint Custody Arrangement after Your Divorce
If you are considering a joint custody agreement, or if you currently have a joint custody agreement and are facing challenges in dealing with your former spouse, what can you do to make your parenting arrangement more amicable? Here are some tips from the custody lawyers at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.:
Tip #1: Make Sure You Know the Terms of Your Joint Custody Agreement
In many cases, divorced parents run into issues because one or both of them have an inaccurate understanding of the terms of their joint custody agreement. In order to ensure that you are upholding your end of the deal – and to make sure you have a clear understanding of your former spouse’s obligations as well – it is important to carefully review the terms of your agreement.
What does your joint custody agreement say about transportation? What does it say about pick-up and drop-off windows? What does it say about phone time, curfews, and other similar types of parenting issues? Before discussing issues or concerns with your former spouse, you will want to make sure you know exactly what your agreement says with regard to your respective rights and responsibilities.
Tip #2: Have a Plan for Communicating with Your Former Spouse
If you need to discuss an issue with your former spouse, make sure you have a plan for how and when you communicate your concerns. For example, firing off a text message during your former spouse’s parenting time might not be as effective as carefully writing an email or suggesting that you need to schedule a mutually convenient time to talk. Oftentimes, disputes become contentious not because of what is said, but because of how the message is conveyed. If you set the stage for an amicable discussion, you may be able to achieve a positive outcome without engendering unwarranted hostility.
Tip #3: Do Not Involve Your Children in Any Communications about Issues or Concerns
After a divorce, it is not uncommon for parents to only come into contact when their children are present. However, if you have concerns that you need to address or issues that you need to resolve, it is very important that you communicate with your former spouse outside of your children’s presence. Divorced parents should not involve their children in custody disputes, as this can have negative psychological effects that endure long after the issue is resolved.
In this same vein, divorced parents should not ask their children to communicate messages for them, and they should not try to negatively influence their children’s perception of their other parent. Not only can these engender hostility between the parents and increase the likelihood of a contentious dispute, but they can have negative psychological effects for the children as well.
Tip #4: Consider What Constitutes an Appropriate Response
While both parents should strictly adhere to the terms of their joint custody agreement, issues come up, and some grace is to be expected. If your former spouse is occasionally five minutes late dropping off your children, this is a very different matter from consistently “canceling” a pickup at the last minute.
In order to maintain a peaceful joint custody arrangement, it may be necessary to overlook the occasional minor transgression. On the other hand, this can also be a slippery slope, and you also need to know when to say when. If your former spouse is not complying with your joint custody agreement and you have questions about what you should do, you should speak with an attorney before making any significant decisions.
Tip #5: Seek Advice When Necessary
Transitioning to life after divorce is not easy, and adjusting to a joint custody arrangement takes time. If you are struggling, if you have questions, or if you are feeling isolated or helpless, you should not hesitate to seek advice. A family attorney can help you with any legal issues related to your joint custody arrangement, and friends, family members, and support groups can provide you with practical advice. Psychologists, social workers, and other professionals can provide invaluable advice for post-divorce parenting as well.
Tip #6: Do Not Let Issues Linger
If you run into an issue with your former spouse, it is generally not a good idea to let the issue linger. While some issues will go away, many will not. Addressing the issue before it gets worse can increase your chances of finding an amicable solution and help you maintain a peaceful joint custody arrangement.
Tip #7: Seek a Modification If You Can No Longer Comply with Your Joint Custody Agreement
Finally, if your circumstances change and you are no longer able to comply with your joint custody agreement, this is an issue that you will want to address proactively as well. Violating the terms if your agreement can have serious consequences, and it’s something that you want to avoid if at all possible.
Speak with a Custody Attorney at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.
Do you have questions about establishing joint custody or what to do if you encounter a custody-related issue after your divorce? To speak with a custody attorney at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., in confidence, call us directly or request a consultation online today.