How to make joint parenting work
The key to joint parenting is working with each other to do what’s best for your children. Any decisions should be made while keeping them first in mind.
Things that can make joint custody difficult
Even when joint custody is the right choice, it isn’t always simple. Some of the possible complications include:
If the parents live far apart there can be a lot of travel involved for everyone.
Staying close to your children may mean passing up promotions or job opportunities.
When parents don't get along well, they may have trouble making compromises.
Children may also feel like they're being constantly uprooted when they have to move between homes often. But it's still possible to make things work.
How to make joint parenting easier
Even if you're in a difficult joint custody situation, there are several steps you can take to make things easier.
Respect each other.
Try to keep the hurt and anger of a breakup out of decisions about your children.
Honor your commitments.
When you agree to a parenting schedule stick to it. Your children are counting on that time with you. Plan your own activities around it.
When life does get in the way of a plan (and it will), let the other parent know as soon as possible so you can work out a new plan. Be understanding of the occasional last-minute emergency.
Pick your battles.
Save court cases for big issues. If you go to court too often, a judge may just decide that joint custody isn’t working for you.
Listen to your children.
Give them some input in their own lives. For example, you might let a young child decide which toys stay in which house. For an older child, you might need to rearrange the parenting schedule to fit their extracurricular activities.
Review your schedule regularly.
Your child's needs will change change over time. This might mean the amount of time spent with each parent will need to change.
Things to avoid in joint custody
Some things can end up making joint parenting harder and more stressful for everyone.
Badmouthing each other.
Remember, your children love both of you. Hearing you make negative comments about each other can be stressful for them.
Fighting in front of your children.
You will have differences of opinion, but have those discussions away from your children. When you’re fighting about a childcare issue, it’s easy for them to feel they’re to blame.
Keep rules and discipline as consistent as possible. It makes for an easier transition between homes.
When you just can’t make it work
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, joint parenting breaks down. Joint custody agreements often include a mediation requirement for this possibility.
Take advantage of mediation before things escalate too far. If even mediation doesn’t work, you may have to go to court and let a judge make the decision.
Remember, each family’s situation is different. But the main thing to remember about joint custody is to do what’s right for you and your children.