Uncovering Myths About Parenting After Divorce

When parents choose to legally separate or divorce, a number of questions are likely to arise about what life will be like for your family moving forward. If you're in this position, you might refer to friends who have gone through similar experiences or think back to what you've heard before about parenting after divorce. Doing your own research in this way can be somewhat helpful, but getting information that doesn't pertain to your specific situation can also make things much more confusing. The fact is that no two situations will be identical, and therefore, your family may have an experience that is quite different from that of your friends or from what you thought before. While referring to your attorney and other family law professionals will be your best bet in getting the right answers for you, there are some common parenting after divorce myths and facts that pertain to many situations. To help clear the air about a few of these rather common myths about parenting after divorce, here are a few facts.
Myth: Divorce and child custody cases are handled the same way in every state across the US.
Each state has its own set of laws surrounding divorce and child custody, and courts in each state will determine case outcomes based on their own state's laws. While several laws are similar between states, parents should not assume that their state's laws are entirely the same as another's. Parenting after divorce and the custody arrangement that is determined as the best fit for your family will be influenced by your state's laws, so it is important to familiarize yourself with them. A family law attorney who practices in your state can help to answer your questions about what to expect. You can also do some of your own research online. Our resources section has articles on child custody laws and what to expect in each state. 
Myth: Mothers are always granted primary custody.  
The presumption that mothers are always the parent who is granted primary custody of young children is a rather old myth that many have heard before. It did have some merit in the past when many courts accepted the presumption held by the "Tender Years Doctrine". This doctrine upheld the presumption that mothers were best fit to care for young children, so therefore, they were often awarded custody. Today, most courts across the United States have stopped accepting this presumption, and instead, they will consider a number of factors when determining child custody. These factors largely focus on the child's best interests. In many situations, courts will favor a shared custody arrangement as long as it works in the child's best interests. A shared custody arrangement allows for each parent to continue cultivating a meaningful relationship with their children. That being said, each parent does have an equal opportunity to receive primary or sole custody if it is proven that one parent is much more fit to care for the child based on the child's best interests. 
Myth: A child can choose which parent they want to live with.
Whether a child is still young or already well into their teen years, they may have an opinion as to which parent they would like to live with. Again, courts will consider factors related to a child's best interests, and depending on the age and maturity of a child, they may consider these wishes when making a custody determination. While this may be true, a child's wishes might go against what the court sees as being in their best interests. A child's wishes may not carry as much weight in this decision as other examined factors do.
Myth: Parents with joint custody do not have to pay child support.
Child support payments work as a way for a parent to provide financial support for a child after divorce. In most cases, child support payments must be made in some form or another often by the parent who does not provide daily care for the child. Each state has its own way of calculating child support payments, and many states provide online calculators or worksheets that will help you determine what those payments might be in your case. If custody time is split equally between parents, it is possible that child support payments may not be required, but this isn't always the case. Whether or not child support payments are required, there will still be child-related expenses that each parent incurs. Parents often share the responsibility of these expenses and use particular ratios to break each cost down based on what it is for. It is important for parents to keep track of these costs, what has been reimbursed, and what is still owed. Using an online expense register that can be updated by both parents is an efficient way to accurately document and manage these payments. 
Myth: Divorced parents can just communicate through their kids.
Parenting after divorce will often require parents to communicate regarding their children. Children should never be used as messengers between their parents or be placed in the middle of any conflict. It is unhealthy for the children to bear the emotional burden of carrying messages between their parents. For this reason, parents must find a way to communicate in a manner that does not include the children passing along messages between homes and keeps them away from observing conflict between their parents. Using an online co-parent tool can facilitate parent communication by providing a secure, neutral forum for parents to converse through. Some online co-parenting tools provide much more than just messaging capabilities. The OurFamilyWizard website offers parenting time calendars, expense registers, family information storage, journaling tools, and much more. Using a tool that provides multiple features can help parents to keep all of their important parenting details organized while also not placing their kids in the middle of it. 

NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.