One of the most terrifying pieces of a divorce is the idea of losing custody of your kids. Let us put your mind at ease right out of the gates: it’s not happening. In cases of documented abuse, the courts still favor custody for both parents. So, if your ex threatens to take the kids from you, Ignore it!
To clarify, custody is different from time with the kids. Legal Custody is about decision making around three key issues: health, education and religion. That’s it. It has nothing to do with the amount of time you get with your kid(s).
The second piece is residential custody. That is basically a schedule of how the kids go back and forth. That’s it. If you are fighting about how late your kids go to bed at dad’s house or what mom is feeding, a judge does not care. Don’t waste time arguing about things you can’t change.
In most cases, you will share joint legal custody. But when creating the Parenting Plan, you want to look at it from the kids’ perspective; their schedule and activities will dictate this for the most part. Parents will say they want 50/50 time with the kids, but maybe you commute to an 80 hour a week job. Splitting time does not make sense.
What if things change. Is the parenting plan fluid? YES. It’s never final. If you can’t work through residential custody changes on your own, do yourself a favor and hire a therapist. Do not go back into court over the parenting plan. It’s a waste of time and money and the judge does not care.
Interesting fact: Kids that were abused still love and want that parent in his/her life. So, if a kid is rejecting time with a parent, something is going on. Maybe the primary parent is alienating the other, or there is some strange behavior or person you don’t want to see. Take it to a therapist and get some ideas.
So many studies show that divorce isn’t bad, it’s the fighting about the kids that’s bad. Pick your battles. If someone isn’t respectful of the schedule and he or she misses their time, take it to a therapist who knows your child and can help you find solutions.
Through the process of our own divorces, Barb Hazelton and Jo Briggs learned more than they ever needed or wanted to know. Through their friendship, shared experiences, and connections through navigating their own divorces, they created this video series. They've been where you are and they hope Single Process can make it easier for you by connecting you to their resources.