Avoid These 7 Mistakes With Shared Custody

Law Blog

If you are considering shared custody with your soon-to-be ex, there are seven mistakes you will want to avoid so that the arrangement can succeed. Do not...

1. Overreact to your Ex's annoying behavior and allow resentment to flourish.

A couple of things could happen if you show resentment at your ex for some minor, inconsiderate or passive-aggressive behavior. First of all, the stress takes a toll on your nerves. Second, the behavior may be unintentional, so displaying patience could keep a small problem from developing into a bigger one. Third, if it was intentional, you look like a meanie, while your ex looks like the unfairly harassed one, so it pays off in spades for your ex.

2. Undermine your Ex's role.

It can be so tempting to try to win favor with your kids by undermining the other parent, especially if that parent tends to be stricter than you are. Kids catch on to this game fairly quickly and can work you both, but that isn't the worst problem.

If you and your ex don't support each other, the kids can become confused about following rules and respecting authority figures. By working together with your ex, you can present a united front that will continue to pay much later when your kids are adults.

3. Badmouth the other parent.

Bad mouthing the other parent around your kids is unwise. They really want to love and respect both parents, and they will get much of their identity and traits from the both of you. If you put the ex down, you are in a sense, putting them down.

Second, it will get back to the ex, one way or another. If you do it consistently, your ex could claim that you are using parental alienation tactics to harm the relationship they have with the children. You could even lose custody of the children and your status could be relegated to visitation only.

4. Ask your kids to keep secrets.

Kids don't keep secrets well, and it makes them feel disloyal to the other parent. It puts them under an unfair burden as well, which can strain their communication with both parents. It is especially hard on them since they will be seeing the other parent much more under the shared custody arrangement.

5. Try to prevent your child from contacting the other parent.

While it's your turn to have the kids, you may not want them to be phoning or cyber-chatting with your ex. You will probably be fighting a losing battle with older children since these forms of communication have become ubiquitous in U.S. culture.

It's best to discuss the issue before the divorce is final and have a clause or two about "virtual visitation" and communication be included in the divorce agreement.

Instead of taking a hard line about it, consider using it to help you in various ways. Say you have a job and your older children have to be alone for a couple of hours after school. Being able to communicate with Mom or Dad on the computer might help them stay out of trouble and feel safer, and they can also receive some help with their homework or other tasks.

6. Send messages to your Ex via the kids.

Just tell your ex what you need them to know, whether by businesslike emails or plain talkin'. If you make the kid the messenger, the other parent could react with anger and the child would take the brunt of it. Even if the child understands that it's not really them, they can't help but feel unfairly used and berated. If your ex tries to use your kids in this way, remind them that their messages could be relayed wrong and cause confusion.

7. Ignore signals that something is wrong.

You could end up feeling relaxed with shared parenting and glad that your ex is cooperating with you to raise the children. However if there are signs pointing to child abuse, substance abuse, a mood disorder, or other problems, don't ignore them. If one or more of your children won't talk to you, get them to a counselor to find out what's up so you and your ex can deal with it, or you can take steps to protect your children.

Legal Advice

As you prepare for divorce, talk to a family law attorney like those at the Rosenmeier Law Office to get relevant and specific legal advice for your situation.


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