Divorce stinks. Even if your spouse stinks more, there’s just no way around it — divorce can really just stink. For some, it can be a long, complicated process laden with drama and emotions, and it can be even harder when there are dependent children involved. Obviously, you want the transition into divorced life to be as easy and as seamless for your children as possible, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.
It’s a big change for kids — probably the biggest of their lives. You want to make the best decisions leading up to that change to mitigate any damages from it. So, how are you and your ex supposed to decide on a custody schedule? And how the heck do you frame it as a happy-fun time for your kids? (Okay, look, no one can tell you how to do that, but we can at least help you make it a healthier experience — save on future therapy costs.)
Making co-parenting work
At the end of the day, only you and your ex can decide what kind of child custody plan is right for your family. Every situation is unique and there are a lot of factors that could go into making your decision (including how well you and your ex-spouse can work together). Really, the best thing to keep in mind is that the goal is specifically CO-parenting — it’s not a competition.
Parent coordinator and divorce coach Cherie Morris recommends some common co-parenting plans:
- “The alternating weeks schedule: Your child(ren) spend(s) 1 week with one parent and the next week with the other parent.
- 2 weeks schedule: Your child(ren) spend(s) 2 weeks with one parent and then 2 weeks with the other parent.
- The 3-4-4-3 schedule: Your child(ren) spend(s) 3 days with one parent, 4 days with the other parent, 4 days with the first parent and then 3 days with the other parent
- The 2-2-5-5 schedule: Your child(ren) spend(s) 2 days with each parent and then 5 days with each parent.
- The 2-2-3 schedule: Your child(ren) spend(s) 2 days with one parent, 2 days with the other parent and 3 days with the first parent. Then, the next week it switches.
- The alternating every 2 days schedule: Your child(ren) switch between the parents every 2 days.”
Alongside your normal schedule, you will also want to consider how holidays, days off, vacations, and any other special occasions will be handled. One of the many reasons why we suggest working with an experienced divorce attorney or professional mediator when coming up with your Parenting Agreement is because your custody agreement and parenting plan should be filed with the court, so you want professionals who can make sure you don’t miss any important details. That’s just not a chance you want to take. If you are able to communicate effectively with your ex, put your children first, and listen to professional advice before solidifying your Parental Agreement, you should be able to pull off co-parenting — no matter which custody plan you decide on.
Helping your child(ren) adjust to custody agreements
Regardless of the outcome of your custody plan, there will be some sort of adjustment period for your children. That’s just unavoidable. No matter how much work you put into crafting the perfect co-parenting plan, they will still be, in essence, mourning the life they knew, and the idea of family they grew up with. That is no small task. The good news is, this transition is one plenty of children successfully get through all the time, and as such there’s a great deal of advice on how to help.
Let’s face it — kids take things personally. This will be no different. They will be watching you and your ex’s behavior like hawks to gauge how they believe you feel, and you need to be aware of that at all times and act accordingly. So, here are a few tips on how to do just that:
- Stay consistent with things like rules, discipline, and schedule so not EVERYTHING changes when your children go to the other parent’s home.
- Don’t put your children in the middle. They don’t need to hear you vent about their other parent, and they are not little messengers.
- Help your children anticipate each change by warning them in advance and communicating with them as much as you are able.
- Try to keep each transition as positive as possible.
- Be a good role model to your children by showing you can successfully cooperate with your ex and be civil with them.
Of course, this is not a comprehensive list, but it really all comes down to keeping in mind that your children come first. This is, first and foremost, about them and their well-being. There’s no way to make it a totally painless experience, but if you are able to put your love for them over any negative feelings towards your spouse, you should be okay.
If you want to know more, the good news is that’s exactly what attorneys like us can help you with. No matter where you are in the custody and divorce process, you can benefit from having legal representation to answer your questions, negotiate on your behalf, and advise you on the best courses of action. That being said, the sooner the better. The Knoxville divorce attorneys at LaFevor & Slaughter have the experience you can trust, and more importantly, compassion you can count on. We know it’s all about the kids. We’ll make sure it stays that way on your behalf. Give us a call today to get started at (865) 637-6258 or use our contact form.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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