Working out custody and visitation terms can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience. However, it's worth it to work out an arrangement among yourselves, since any form of court intervention is expensive, as well as emotionally taxing on your children. If, however, your divorce involves extreme situations such as domestic abuse, you may have to appeal to the courts in order to protect yourself and your children.
Whether you have just filed for divorce, or are in the middle of negotiating custody and visitation terms, here are some tips that can help you and your spouse come to an agreement.
- Do what's best for your children, even if it's not a "fair" arrangement.
Joint custody may seem like the fairest arrangement, but this may not be the most suitable situation for your children. Depending on their age and social development, it may be better for your children to live primarily in their current home, under the care of your spouse.
- Be honest about what you can and can't provide as a parent.
Divorce changes your life in many ways, and like it or not, these changes will affect certain aspects of your relationship with your children. For example, you may be forced to work extra hours or get a second job in order to pay the bills. In addition to having little time for your kids, you may have trouble affording day care, even with child support and alimony. Being honest about what your life will be like after divorce can help you decide on the best arrangement for your children.
- Don't involve your children in the marital disputes.
It's extremely important to communicate with your children throughout the divorce process, but your conversations should never include negative comments about your spouse. You should also avoid talking to your children about the contentious nature of your divorce, even if the children are old enough to understand. Although you can acknowledge that you and your spouse have different ideas, it should be stressed that you are working together to come up with the best solution for everyone.
- Be prompt and thorough with any requests for paperwork or documentation. If you are involved in a custody evaluation or risk assessment, you will be asked by the evaluator to submit substantial amounts of paperwork and documentation. It is absolutely imperative that you submit the requested information in a timely manner. Failing to do so may appear as a sign of carelessness or apathy, which will reflect badly on your abilities as a parent.
- Work with an experienced family law attorney.
Arranging a legal custody agreement is incredibly complicated, even if you and your spouse agree on the terms. Working with a family law attorney will ensure that you paperwork is filed in a thorough and timely manner. Your attorney can also review any proposed divorce settlements to make sure that your rights are protected long into the future.