One of the most difficult aspects of divorce, for a parent, is what to do about custody of their children. What they initially think may be best can change over time — especially as they start to look harder at their children’s needs.
One thing is for certain: No two family situations are exactly the same. Here are some things to consider as you ponder which custody arrangement will least impact your child’s future.
What different types of custodial arrangements exist?
There is legal and physical custody. The former bestows a parent a right to make decisions about their child’s religious upbringing, education and health care. The latter has to do with which parent a child spends time with. Parents can have either sole of joint physical or legal custody of their kids or some combination thereof.
What type of custodial arrangement is best for different aged kids?
Children have varying custodial needs depending on their age or developmental levels:
- Infants and toddlers: They tend to develop an attachment to their primary caregiver; thus, spending extended time away from them may affect their development. Parents may need to start with visitation, slowly progressing to overnights and trade-offs every few days.
- Preschoolers and elementary-aged kids: These children tend to be more independent and can go for extended periods without having close interaction with a parent without it affecting them. Kids this age thrive on consistency, though. Trading off your child every few days may still be best. You should also allow your child to have communication with their co-parent in between.
- Tweens and teens: Kids belonging to these age groups generally rather hang out with friends or engage in their extracurricular activities instead of with their parents. They tend not to like disruptions to their schedules or environment. You may want to build in longer chunks of time for tradeoffs or come up with an arrangement whereby you see them on weekends, whereas the other parent has them during the week so that there’s some predictability in their schedule.
Reaching a compromise with your ex about how much time you’re going to spend with your child isn’t easy. An attorney can help mediate such conversations that are sure to get contentious.