When Florida couples divorce, child custody often is one of their main issues. Both parents love the children, and neither wants to be the absentee parent who the children visit every other weekend and on alternating holidays. If at all possible, the parents should strongly consider joint custody after their divorce. Such arrangements began springing up across the country a few years ago, and today the prevailing opinion of state legislatures, divorce court judges, family law practitioners and child psychology experts is that joint custody benefits not only the children, but their parents as well.
StatNews reports that recent studies show that children benefit from a continued close relationship with both parents in the following ways:
- They exhibit less anxiety, depression and stress during and after their parents’ divorce.
- Their father and mother both remain strong guiding figures in their lives.
- They tend to do better at school and in their scholastic activities.
- They tend to smoke, drink and use drugs less than children from truly broken homes.
- They get to maintain the extended family relationships so important in their upbringing.
Setting up rules
Parents.com recommends that parents considering a post-divorce joint custody arrangement set up written rules for both parents to follow. This makes the co-parenting arrangement easier and also tends to prevent conflicts between the parents.
Perhaps the most important rule is that parents should never fight in front of their children. The corollary rule is that neither parent should ever disparage the other in front of their children. Children hate conflict, especially when it occurs between their parents, both of whom they love. Younger children do not understand conflict and it scares them, especially when voices get raised or one parent, usually the mother, breaks into tears. Older children fear that the conflict is their fault and that ultimately they will have to take sides.
Another highly important thing for parents to remember is that a “bad” spouse is not necessarily a “bad” parent. Often “bad” parenting is actually the way one parent gets back at the other. When parents follow their co-parenting rules, no one needs to get back at anyone else. Consequently, parenting proceeds as it should: in the best interests of the children.
Naturally, post-divorce joint custody is not for everyone. For parents who commit themselves to it, however, the rewards are great. Their children grow up happily, secure in the knowledge that both of their parents love them and are there for them whenever they need them.