Are Children Under Less Stress When Living in Both Homes?
Westport Child Custody Attorney
Determining the long-term solution to living arrangements for marital children after a divorce can be taxing on the entire family. During divorce proceedings, there may have been a lot of back and forth visits, inconsistencies, and last-minute changes. A divorce settlement will speak to (and ideally permanently resolve) the issue of custody—that is, whether one of the parents has full custody, if joint custody is appropriate, or if other, special arrangements must be made. A joint custody arrangement after a divorce is likely the most common approach to ensuring that children maintain their routine, regardless of whether they happen to be staying at mom or dad’s that weekend.
Joint custody means that the child or children will divide their living time between both their mother and father’s home after a divorce. The parents will likely share educational, financial, and personal expenses attributable to the children, and the children will have an opportunity to see both of their parents on a consistent basis.
There are concerns that moving from house-to-house every weekend can take a toll on young children. However, a recent Northwest Herald article outlines a study that suggests that children who live at both parents’ homes, that is, in a joint custody arrangement, have less stress than those children who are not a party to such a post-divorce arrangement. This is attributed to the consistency of a routine, which a joint custody arrangement provides for. The child knows where they will be each weekend and can plan accordingly. There is also the added benefit of less stress on the parents, which is often deflected to the children (unintentionally or not). By parents coming to and maintaining an amicable joint custody schedule, weekends, holidays, and pick-up and drop-off schedules from school are all accounted for in advance. There is little need for the parents to fight over the arrangement that is set by court order.
Of course, regardless of whether there "needs" to be a fight, joint custody can be difficult. From the children’s perspective, joint custody may interfere with extracurricular activities and team sports leagues, can interrupt routine considering that one parent is likely still living at the marital home the child was used to being in, and may disrupt sleeping and eating schedules. From the parents’ perspective, however, this may all be simply a part of life. Missed pickups, late playdates, an important event on a weekend leads to switched weekends - all of this can lead to a disappearance of the schedule altogether. "Divorce" is not code for "no more fighting"; the concerns about your children will always continue regardless of what your arrangement may be.
Tips on Keeping Your Child Comfortable in a Joint Custody Arrangement
In order to maximize the effectiveness and benefits of a joint custody situation, there are many things you, as parents, can do to help your children. First, consider the importance of the routine. Although emergencies do happen, try not to make it a habit to change the schedule, especially last minute. Be mindful that custody arrangements can be challenged, and deviations from the schedule can be brought up by the party seeking custody rights.
Second, communicate with your child. Your child is inevitably going to have difficulty adjusting to this lifestyle. Take the time to help them understand how the arrangement will work and let them get a grasp of the schedule. That way, there will not be any unexpected issues that can disrupt the routine. For young children, the divorce is difficult in and of itself to explain; the added layer of moving from house to house may create unnecessary additional confusion if the child does not understand the arrangement from the beginning.
Finally, listen to your child. There are many simple things you can do to help accommodate your child during this likely confusing time. Parents.com suggests that something as simple as helping your child pick out a paint color or help design their new bedroom may allow them to feel comfortable in their second home. While it is important to listen to a child’s requests, it is also important to keep the custody arrangement intact. As children get older, they may develop strong preferences for one home over the other (consider: car at mom’s house, friends near dad’s house). While this is to be expected, have a plan in place with your ex-spouse to make sure the arrangement stays in place until the child turns 18. As long as you and your ex-spouse can make it work without interfering with the children’s routine and there are no disputes between spouses regarding the arrangement, a joint custody arrangement can be amicable and reasonable for a child growing up.
Contact a Connecticut Divorce and Custody Attorney
If you and your ex-spouse think a joint custody arrangement is right for your family, Richard H. Raphael can explain to you the positives, negatives, and intricacies of entering such an arrangement. Whether you are considering divorce, in the middle of proceedings, or wishing to contest a current custody arrangement, Richard H. Raphael is an experienced Connecticut family law attorney out of Westport, Connecticut who can help you navigate an array of divorce, custody, or child support issues. Contact his office to learn more about options for your family today at 203-226-6168.