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How To Make Joint Custody Work For Your Family

Newly divorced and wondering how to navigate joint custody? When both parents can provide a safe, nurturing environment for their kids, joint custody can prove very beneficial for children.

As expected with any major change in family dynamics, getting into the groove of this new arrangement may prove challenging at the outset. Still, with effort, understanding, and flexibility, it won’t take long before your family gets accustomed to the new schedule.

Our experience negotiating custody and visitation arrangements for Rhode Island clients has provided valuable insight into making shared child custody arrangements work. During the divorce proceedings, you and your soon-to-be-ex likely developed a parenting schedule that worked for all of you. Now, it’s time to make that schedule work in real life.

Simple Steps To A Smooth Joint Custody Arrangement

  • Change your perspective. Let’s face it, the divorce process is typically long and emotional. When the divorce agreement is signed and child custody goes into effect, you’re often still reeling from the process. Feelings of resentment or anger towards your ex are common in the weeks and months following a divorce.

For joint custody to be effective and beneficial to your kids, you must put your differences aside. Easier said than done? Yes. Impossible? No. 

To help change your perspective on your ex, try picturing them as your child’s parent, versus your former spouse. As such, the hurt, bitterness, and resentment you have towards your spouse is not important. The only thing that matters is the task at hand—functioning as a parenting team.

For any team to function effectively, they must work towards a common vision. In this case, the singular focus of that vision is helping your children adapt to this major life change.

  • Direct and frequent communication is a necessity. It’s not unusual for divorcing partners to cite communication difficulties as one of the top reasons for divorce. Unfortunately, though, communication does not cease after divorce when you have kids. Instead, you’ll likely have to communicate with your ex more often, about logistics and scheduling.

To help you communicate easier, adhere to these steps:

  • Communicate directly with the other parent. Never ask your child to relay a message to your former spouse, whether it’s about scheduling or another topic. This puts unnecessary stress on your child and can make them feel resentful about the divorce or being put in the middle.
  • Maintain consistency, but be flexible. The visitation schedule approved by the court is a consistent schedule designed with your child’s best interest in mind. Maintaining consistency allows for the kids to understand what’s coming and when they can expect to see the other parent. Of course, life is unpredictable. If you or your ex have a conflict, do your best to be flexible and understanding. If the conflict seems to happen more often than not, it might be time to time to speak with an experienced Rhode Island family attorney.
  • Make decisions together, before you share logistics with the kids. To avoid hurt feelings don’t share any changes in logistics with your kids prior to consulting with your ex. Telling your child you’re going to take him on vacation prior to discussing it with your ex, for instance, is a slippery slope. If your ex isn’t on board with the trip or you’re unable to come to an agreement, you run the risk of having to tell your child you can’t go. This would likely make the child resentful of the other parent. Remember, the court expects you to uphold the bond between your child and your former spouse.
  • Pick your battles and give the benefit of the doubt. When it comes to divorce, parents have it rough. Having to deal with the breakdown of your marriage is hard enough, let alone the uncertainty of how it will impact your relationship with your child. Try to go easy on yourself and your former spouse. Making the transition from a married couple to co-parents requires patience, empathy, and the benefit of the doubt that your former spouse is doing the best they can, just like you.

Making a co-parenting arrangement work for your family will take time and patience. It’s an adjustment period that takes effort from both parents. If you need help navigating child custody or visitation, we can help.

Contact Kirshenbaum Law Associates at 401-467-5300 for a confidential consultation.