Child psychology experts generally agree that it best for a child’s development and happiness if both parents are actively involved in the lives of children. The courts typically follow this lead by awarding joint custody or sole custody with regular visitation. Some will disagree on parental approach or harbor grudges based on a failed marriage or rocky relationship, but putting the interests of the children first should always be the priority. This often starts with a workable parenting plan or custody arrangement.
6 strategies for making it work
The circumstances of each family are different, but some general rules experts see as helpful for success include:
- Speak no evil: Some parents will disparage the other in front of their children, which can hurt the children, possibly by souring their relationship or backfiring to adversely affect your relationship with them. It is important to remember that a bad spouse does not mean they will be a bad parent.
- Prioritize the children’s needs: Regardless of how one parent feels, the priority should be the well-being of the children, even if this does not always feel right for you as a parent.
- Find a plan that works for the parent: This may seem counter to the previous point, but parents also need to figure out a realistic plan that balances their work schedules and other important obligations. This increases the chances of success and reduces stress.
- Be open to change: The needs of children change with age, so a parenting plan for a toddler will be different from that of a teen. This may even mean switching a child’s primary residence with or without altering the custody agreement.
- Communication is key: Children’s lives can be as busy as their parents, so communication between parents is a must, whether it is by phone, sharing an online calendar, text, email or face-to-face check-ins.
- Pay attention to the children’s needs: This can be as simple as letting them bring a special toy (which may not be convenient to transport) to dad’s house or shifting parenting time to accommodate extracurricular activities.
A knowledgeable attorney can be a tremendous help
An experienced family law attorney can help clients create a workable parenting plan and custody agreement as well as handle other family law issues while ensuring a client’s individual and parental rights are protected. They can sit down with the client to determine the children’s and parent’s needs and then work with the other parent to determine a plan that has the best chance for success.