Many aspects of separation and divorce are difficult to handle, but often the most complicated is figuring out custody arrangements for your children. Sometimes you and your ex have different ideas about what is best for your kids, and finding a way to meet in the middle can be very challenging while your relationship is breaking down.
The critical importance of making a custody plan can make it overwhelming in the midst of all the other details you need to figure out. Determining the most important factors and focusing on those can make the process easier and help you keep the focus on what’s best for your children.
Although every family is unique, there are a few questions that tend to crop up frequently. Familiarize yourself with the options and use that information to formulate a plan for your family.
1. What Type of Custody Arrangement Will We Have?
There are a few different varieties of child custody that you may decide on:
- Sole custody: In this situation, one parent will be primarily responsible for the child and have sole decision-making authority. The child will live with this parent most of the time.
- Joint custody: Both parents have an equal say in any parenting decisions, but this doesn’t mean the child will spend an equal amount of time with each parent.
- Shared custody: Both parents share responsibility equally and will make decisions jointly. Each child will spend at least 40% of their time with each parent.
- Split custody: If you and your ex have more than one child, each parent will have one or more of the kids with them for the majority of the time.
2. What Will Our Child Custody Agreement State?
Your custody agreement outlines exactly how you and your ex will co-parent your children. Fully understanding and laying out your priorities around how your children are raised will go a long way toward resolving disputes before they even begin. Creating a detailed parenting plan puts the focus on your children and what’s best for them. Working from a checklist is also very helpful in deciding on issues that may not have occurred to you otherwise, such as transportation to extracurricular activities, your preferences regarding caregivers, school pickups, etc. We’ve created a checklist which you can access here.
Just remember to take a step back from your own problems and keep your children as your top priority while making custody arrangements. It often helps to read through the checklist and write down your answers separately, then sit down together and determine where you differ. If you need some assistance with this, there are some options available to you:
- Collaborative team practice: Your lawyer and your ex’s lawyer will work together to help you both resolve your differences without going to court. This includes financial issues as well as child custody and support, and is usually faster and cheaper than going to trial.
- Mediation: An unbiased third party will help you create an agreement outlining your parenting responsibilities. Each of you will then have an independent legal advisor read over it before it’s used to create a formal child custody agreement.
3. How Often Will I See My Children?
Creating a detailed parenting plan will help protect your visitation rights and prepare you for any unique situations that might come up in the future. Here are some tips on what to keep in mind when preparing your plan:
Flexibility: Make sure any plan you draw up includes built-in flexibility to cover any new situations. Being flexible now will make things much easier in the future and help avoid extra tension.
Sustainability: Once you’ve come to an agreement with your ex it’s vital that you both stick to it. Make sure your parenting plan is one that both of you are content with.
Communication: If the agreed visitation schedule is not upheld by either parent, it’s important that you do your best to deal with the situation without making it worse. Don’t use your children as bargaining tools or deny your spouse access to them; instead, contact your lawyer right away for help to resolve the situation.
Galbraith Family Law Can Help With Custody Issues
Working out a co-parenting plan while you’re going through a divorce can be intense and difficult. For help getting through the process and keeping your children’s best interests at heart, contact Galbraith Family Law. We can be reached at (289) 802-2433 in the Newmarket area or (705) 302-1102 in Barrie. You can also send a message through our website.