A pure, 50/50 custody split can be difficult to achieve in a divorce, and it can be even more difficult to manage. Here are some things to consider if you have 50% child custody with your former partner.
The Rule of 20
In California, it is rare to achieve a 50/50 split when parents live more than 20 miles apart. There are so many factors in a child’s life, that even 20 miles can make management difficult. For example, you must consider schooling. If you genuinely have 50% of the child’s time, you will be seeing them during the week. This means that you must get them to and from school. You should plan your time with your children around their schooling, extracurricular activities, church, friends, etc.
Mathematically, 50% works only if you alternate weeks. There are 365 days in a year and seven days in a week. These numbers do not divide evenly. However, there are 52 weeks a year, which creates an even split. This gives each parent 26 full weeks with the children.
Remember, however, that holidays shift from year to year. Mother’s or Father’s Day may fall on the wrong week, creating a conflict in week-to-week sharing. Make sure you plan for such conflicts. Perhaps, for example, you can alternate two full weeks during these times to accommodate.
Check in With the Kids
It’s not always easy to be selfless, but as a parent, you know that you must make sacrifices for your kids. As painful as it can be, this may include sacrificing your time with them. Remember that your children are individuals. They have their own wants, needs, and feeling that are completely independent of you.
Regularly, consistently check in with them. Ask them how the 50% split is working for them, and listen to their answers. Often times, adults forget how things that seem trivial to them are hugely important to the kids. Something that seems silly to you, like “I have to leave my toys at Dad’s to come see you,” is enormous to them. Let them express themselves, and don’t judge or punish them for their responses.
Take their feedback in, but also look at yourself and what your schedule is demanding of them. If you are alternating weeks, is that too hard on them? Is your place warm, receptive, and ready for the kids? Does moving back and forth require them to constantly pack their belongings, or do they have everything they need at each home? Issues like this can wear kids down. They can see going from place to place as a burden rather than a blessing. Even if they tell you they’re happy to keep swapping, try to make decisions based on what’s best for them, not you. If 50/50 is too hard on them, you may want to modify the plan.
Knowing When It’s Time to Alter the Plan
Having less than a full, 50% custody is not a defeat. Sometimes, it’s just practical. You can still spend plenty of time with your children, imparting knowledge and having fun. You may just need to have it for less than 50% of the time. If your final, approved parenting plan requires a 50/50 split, and it’s simply not working, here are ways you can modify the plan.
Renegotiate With Your Ex
As parents, you have the freedom to alter your parenting plan. You can change it to whatever works for you. Something as simple as going from 50/50 to 60/40 could free everyone up immensely. Assuming that you are still on good terms with your former spouse, the two of you can draw up a new parenting plan. Afterward, you can submit it to the courts and begin the new agreement right away.
Mediation is a process where you meet with a neutral third party and negotiate the terms of an agreement. A good mediator can help both parents communicate and listen. They can guide you to common ground, creating a better situation for everyone. If things get heated, they have the skills to keep everyone cool, receptive, and collaborative.
Go Back to Court
This is a miserable situation, and you should avoid it unless it is absolutely necessary. If you share 50% custody, chances are you are already in regular communication with your ex, and you get along on some level. If, however, the relationship is contentious, and you simply cannot agree on a plan, you may need to take the matter back to court. Use this option only as a last resort, as it can get expensive and emotionally draining.
Whatever you choose, make sure that you are always keeping your child’s best interests in mind. It’s easy for parents to go to war with one another, using their children as weapons. That’s not okay. You should always be prepared to make compromises and cede ground if it makes your kids’ lives easier.
If you need help altering a parenting plan, contact us today. We specialize in keeping family concerns civil and helping you avoid miserable fighting. For a free consultation, reach out online or call (949) 558-2624.