Child Custody: Prioritizing Cooperation Over Conflict


Child custody arrangements have changed drastically throughout history and continue to evolve. The past fifty years have seen various shifts in not only how joint custody is viewed by the public, but also how it is handled by American family court systems and state governments. Currently, many states have a default understanding or presumption of joint custody between parents with the added consideration that all decisions made revolve around the best interests of the children. 

What does 'the best interest of the children' mean for mothers and fathers navigating sole or shared custody?

Minimizing any trauma incurred from divorce or separation proceedings should be of the utmost concern, but results will be varied unless parents have a clear understanding of what types of behavior spawn emotional and psychological harm. 

A simple step that families can take in protecting their children during a divorce is to commit wholly to maintaining the quality of relationships between parents and children. Strong relationships can aid children in adjusting to their changing family structures. These relationships can only thrive, however, when the importance of cooperative communication is recognized. 

Ensuring that a child's best interests are being protected when custody is being negotiated requires that parents and courts are working with the complete picture. Working with a good family law attorney can make all the difference. Find someone who will keep you informed and involved in your case. Surprises can be costly, so educate yourself on the process to help you avoid large legal bills due to ignorance. Be proactive with your case and don't keep your attorney waiting for updates or information from you. If you can organize and make information presentable, you can avoid paying your attorney's firm to do things you could have done yourself.

Some simple tips to keep in mind:

Be truthful.

Children should be able to maintain ties with both of their parents as long as there are no concerns about physical or emotional abuse. Both parents should be truthful about their co-parents abilities and strengths. Doing so will help both of you come to a solution that looks out for the well-being of your children. 

Be positive.

Allowing negativity into co-parenting runs the risk of damaging children's relationships with their parents. Past hurt originating from former romantic partnerships shouldn't guide either parent's actions when it comes to their co-parenting. Commit to being dedicated to positivity in your communication. 

Be proactive.

Going through a divorce or separation will change how your daily life is structured. Be proactive in researching different areas that will require your attention in the near future. How will your finances and taxes change? Will your child's education be affected by your divorce? What housing changes will need to be addressed immediately? Maintain your momentum in hunting for answers to these questions so you aren't surprised later.

No matter how your custody arrangement is structured, making sure your children are protected from co-parenting conflict will be of the utmost importance. For further tips and solutions for keeping communication positive and productive, sign-up for the OurFamilyWizard newsletter. Every week, you'll receive strategies for working through some of the most common issues co-parents face. 

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.