Three smart moves to help optimize your chance for shared custody!
The first casualty of war is the truth. The first casualty of divorce is access.
One of the most contentious, and hugely frustrating, family law problems arising from separation or divorce is (sadly) resolving matters of access. And I’m not referring to those obvious cases of violence, or parental neglect, where an abusive parent is rightly allowed only controlled or limited access, or denied access altogether.
No, I’m referring to those cases where there are two loving and responsible parents, and one parent refuses to provide meaningful access to the other. For the purpose of this article I’m going to assume that the other parent is requesting shared custody of any children. Shared custody is a parenting arrangement whereby the child resides in the care and control of each parent between 40 to 60% of the time.
So, whether or not the matter eventually goes to court, or hopefully resolves itself through discussion or negotiation, if you happen to be the other parent here are three smart moves to keep in mind.
Firstly, focus (only) on your new relationship with your child. Do not become enmeshed in the past wrongs of your ex. Remember that every nasty e-mail or text you send your ex will potentially come back to haunt, and embarrass you, (or worse) should the matter ever proceed to court.
Be as co-operative as possible with respect to any matter involving the children. Whether it’s offering to take the children to medical appointments or to their various activities be actively involved and be reliable. Don’t simply rely upon your ex to keep you informed of your children’s lives.
And be sure to keep copies of every request you make, even if every request for additional access is denied. Sometimes it’s the asking, rather than the result, which can be the most revealing part of the exercise.
Secondly, establish reasonable child support payments, and be consistent. Paying child support will demonstrate that you acknowledge your financial responsibilities, even while you are struggling to establish reasonable access.
Thirdly, live close, if possible, in the children’s neighbourhood.
In my experience courts are often reluctant to order shared custody (especially with younger children) if the parents live far apart. Courts consider lengthy travel time to pick up or drop off children immensely disruptive. In addition if the children are school aged you will need to be travelling to pick up or drop off the children at their school in the event of a shared custody arrangement.
There’s also another factor, if you choose not to live in the children’s neighbourhood. As the children get older they will inevitably want to spend more of their time with their school friends. If your home is somewhere else, you will eventually be seeing much less of your children.
Most importantly, now that you know how to avoid becoming a casualty of divorce, what are you going to do about it!