The concept of custody has changed a lot in the past few decades. In the past, custody often went to the mother, who provided the children’s primary residence and worked outside the home less. The courts now typically award joint custody to the parents with the understanding that it is in the children’s best interests when both parents are active in the kids’ lives.
While joint custody allows both parents to have an equal say in the children’s important life decisions like education, medical care, religion and other matters, the parenting plan includes the custody agreement. It also involves the visitation schedule (how many nights the children spend at each parent’s residence), parenting time and other arrangements involving the care and management of the kids’ lives. It should be in writing and should include protocols for changing the schedule.
Negotiating the parenting plan
The parents need to consider what is best for the children while also being realistic about their work schedules and obligations. The trick is to balance the children’s schedule with the parents’ schedule to fit together with a minimum amount of disruption to the children’s lives.
Tips for getting it right
There is no one-size-fits-all arrangement, but here are some strategies for finding an equitable solution that works for the family:
- Outline the needs and wants of the children and work from there.
- State your needs and wants.
- Be respectful of your ex’s time and needs, and work to accommodate them.
- Try to be as consistent as possible but flexible enough to understand that life does not always go as planned.
- Determine a schedule that includes the school year, summers, vacations, birthdays and family events.
- Be open to modification if something isn’t working or no longer works.
Patience is a key
There will be a period of adjustment for the family, and some go through it faster than others. The family has to find something that works for them. Still, attorneys can help negotiate this arrangement and other issues in dispute, particularly if one side is being difficult or unyielding.