But there is no reason to worry that your child will become a statistic. It takes careful planning, attention to detail, and dedication to developing a healthy co-parenting strategy, but it is very possible to give your child a positive outcome.
let's dive in covering following points:
Co-parenting Do’s and Don’ts
Types of Custody Arrangements
Alimony and Child Support
Is Court Required to Create Custody & Support Agreements?
Divorce comes with inevitable stressors for children. It is up to you as parents to mitigate the impact of these stressors by providing as much balance and consistency as possible.
Deciding on a healthy, productive co-parenting plan is one of the best ways to achieve this. It requires empathy, patience, and open communication from all sides.
If there is still a lot of tension between you and your ex, it may not be easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind to help you get there.
Keep an open dialogue with your ex – You may not want to see the other person face to face, but find some way to continue exchanging information about your child. This could mean email, texting, voice messages, video chat, etc.
It’s important for you to be on the same page about schedules, pick up times, discipline, and everything else that involves your child.
Ensure rules are consistent – Consistency is key. Your child may fight it, especially if they are used to one parent being more lenient, but it’s important that the same set of rules governs both households. This way, your child always knows what to expect.
Speak positively – You may feel very negatively about your ex, but they are still your child’s parent. Try to keep any comments about them upbeat when you are speaking to your child.
Make a concrete plan for extended family – Extended family members on both sides will always be family to your child. It is up to you and your ex to determine the rights and access these family members will have to your child when in the other parent’s custody.
Recognize the good traits in your ex – Your ex isn’t perfect, because no one is. But, they probably have some strengths as a parent that your child can benefit from. Try to recognize these traits and give your ex the leeway to maximize them.
Give your child more to handle – Your child already has enough to worry about during the divorce. Don’t give them more to think about by burdening them with negative information about your ex, explaining unnecessary details about your relationship or breakup, or pressuring them to take sides.
Spend time trying to make it up to your child – Basing your parenting on guilt is not helpful to your child. You may feel like you owe them something for upending their life, but now more than ever they need to know the boundaries. Be prepared for them to push back, but stay firm.
Use your child as a weapon – Your child should never be a bargaining chip to get your ex to act how you want. Threatening to keep your child from the other parent or threatening to tell them something inappropriate about the other parent is unacceptable.
Note, attempting to limit time with the other parent because you have a legitimate reason to fear for your child’s safety is not the same thing. If this is the case, seek help immediately.
Confuse your concerns for your child’s – When emotion runs high during a divorce, it’s common to project your stress and fear onto your child. To stop yourself from doing this, refrain from making assumptions.
Ask your child how they feel often and give them time to explain. Let them know that it’s OK to express positive or negative emotions and that you and the other parent plan to always be around to support them.
You and your ex have the freedom to create a custody arrangement that works best for you and your family. Before deciding on an arrangement, it is helpful to consider each of your strengths and who already takes care of which aspects of childcare.
Types of custody include:
Physical custody determines which parent a child lives with the majority of the time. This parent is called the custodial parent. In slightly over half of cases (51%), this is the mother.
Although the child lives with one parent most of the time, the other parent has rights to visitation or other parenting time with their child.
Legal custody determines who has rights to make decisions about a child’s life. These could be decisions about school, spiritual teachings, social events, medical concerns, etc. In most cases, even if one parent has physical custody, both parents share legal custody.
In cases where only one parent has legal custody, they don’t need to consult the other parent to make decisions on their child’s behalf.
Sole custody is an arrangement where one parent has legal and/or physical custody of a child. This could happen if one parent is considered unfit because of drug or alcohol dependency or because of charges of abuse or neglect.
Even when both parents are equally fit, they may decide to give one parent sole physical custody to minimize the amount of time a child has to travel from home to home. Around ¼ of all children under 18 in the U.S. live with one parent full-time.
Joint custody is an arrangement where parents continue to share rights and responsibilities for their children after divorce. This can refer to either physical or legal custody (or both).
This arrangement ensures that both parents will get equal time with their child and continue to share the burdens of parenting equally, but it also means that children are often shuffled from one home to another, potentially losing a sense of place.
Whether one spouse financially supported the other to get an education
The length of the marriage
The age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition of each spouse
The educational or training needs of the lower earning spouse
These payments can also be altered in cases involving misconduct in the marriage. If transgressions are committed by the payer (the ex spouse who must pay alimony), payments can be increased (either for a limited time or indefinitely).
If transgressions are committed by the payee (the lower earning spouse who receives payment), payments may be lessened.
While alimony can be paid to any ex-spouse, child support is predicated on the existence of a child.
Child Support is calculated based on:
The number of children
Which parent takes care of the children most of the time
The location of the paying parent
The location of the children
The annual income of both parents
Some parents mistakenly believe that child support can only be used to cover a child’s basic needs, such as food and shelter. In reality, it can be used for a variety of child-related expenses, including child care, medical expenses, education, transportation, entertainment, and college.
Litigating your custody or child support arrangement should be considered a last resort.
Relinquishing your right to make decisions about your child’s life to a judge is a risk. It may result in an arrangement being created, but there’s no guarantee that you or your ex will be satisfied with the arrangement or that it will produce the best outcome for your child (despite the best intentions).
You and the other parent know the most about your situation and what is best for your child. Therefore, you and your ex should try to resolve things on your own through negotiation. If you feel that you won’t be able to negotiate on your own, consider hiring a mediator to help you work through your child support and custody agreements.
Mediation is a structured form of negotiation which is overseen by a neutral third party, the mediator.
Mediation is a flexible process, but often begins the same way: a preliminary meeting is scheduled so the mediator (or their assistant) can explain how they usually move through the process.
After this meeting, each parent is given time to collect all the necessary documents to support their case. These are provided to the mediator before sit-down sessions are scheduled.
Depending on the mediator, you may schedule individual sessions or joint sessions with the mediator and your ex.
The mediator is not an advocate for you or your ex; they are there to help you better communicate and find a solution that works for both of you.
If you have not already made other arrangements for your divorce, such as distribution of assets, retirement plans, and taxes, you can discuss these items as well as child support and custody with a family mediator as part of divorce mediation.
There are several reasons to choose mediation over litigation:
Less adversarial – while litigation puts you against your ex, mediation requires that you work together to find the best solution for your child. A co-parenting agreement that begins with this kind of cooperation will help preserve the relationship and start the new reality on the right foot.
More flexible – your agreement is not limited to precedents, laws, or anythings else. You have the complete freedom to come up with a solution that works best for you and your family.
Maintains control – the result of mediation is at the full discretion of you and your ex. There is nothing forcing you to agree, and nothing stopping you from finding creative solutions.
Less expensive – litigating your case means paying court fees, lawyer fees, court reporter fees, etc. Mediation means paying for the mediator’s time, possibly renting a location to host it, and paying lawyer fees (if you choose to hire one). This results in paying 20-50% less than litigation.
Less time-consuming – while litigation can take years, mediation is over in an average of 3-6 months. And because you maintain control over the process, you can decide to move through it slower or faster based on your needs.
Ensures equal say – one of you may be used to taking charge, but the mediator will ensure that both parents get equal time to share their opinions, concerns, and hopes regarding the outcome.
Getting divorced is stressful, especially when it comes to trying to ensure that your children come out the other side with minimum impact.
Although the stats about children of divorce can be scary, there are many things you can do to give your child a positive outcome. Ensuring empathy and open communication are two of the major requirements.
You and your ex have the freedom to create custody and support arrangements that work best for your family. There is no need to let the court decide what your life after divorce looks like.
One of the best ways to take control of the situation is through mediation. A mediator can help you determine an agreeable solution through negotiation without taking sides.