The overriding concern for most separated parents, or those in the process of separating, is coming to terms with the parenting arrangements. In other words, where will the children be living? This is particularly crucial if the children are younger, since older children (ie teenagers) can essentially decide, with their feet, which parent they will live with.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of misconceptions surrounding such hot-button issues as custody and guardianship. Some of which can have a profoundly negative impact on reaching a timely, and satisfactory, agreement with your spouse. To prevent this from happening to you, keep reading.
If you, and your spouse, are both loving, and responsible, parents to the children, (note, I did not say to each other) resist the temptation to demand sole custody, or sole guardianship, of the children. Fighting over such labels will only inflame an already difficult situation, and likely de-rail any meaningful negotiations with your spouse.
Now, here is one of those major misconceptions. You may believe that if you agree to share joint custody, and joint guardianship, with your spouse, this means that the children are shared equally. Wrong, joint custody and joint guardianship have nothing to do with access. They mean that you, and your spouse, have the obligation, and responsibility, to jointly parent the children, and whenever possible, attempt to reach agreement on important decisions. It should also be spelled out what happens in the event of a significant disagreement. Typically, this could mean that the parent with whom the children spend the majority of their time will decide the outcome, or the matter could be referred to mediation.
But, as I always advise my family law clients, in my opinion, the most important issue of all, is reaching agreement on what I call “face –time”, determining how much quality time the children will actually be enjoying with you. I’ll have tips on that topic next week.
So, forget the labels, and make face-time a priority. You won’t regret losing your sole in the process, because you’ll be gaining your children. And what could be better than that?