Hello, my name is Jeff Hart and I am a lawyer with the Feldstein Family Law Group.
Today I would like to discuss the benefits of joint custody. Custody in family law can mean either “decision-making” regarding major decisions involving the child, or “physical custody” of the child, meaning where the child resides. For the purpose of today’s discussion, I am referring to custody in terms of “decision-making”.
In joint custody arrangements, parents must be capable of effective communication and cooperation in order to share decision-making rights regarding their children. While at first this arrangement may be difficult, especially if parents dislike each other, it is highly advantageous to all parties (and the child) in the long run.
First, “Parents forced to have good communication have fewer child-related conflicts and costs”. Once both parties have had the opportunity to discuss the major decision relating to the children, they start to get used to communicating with the other party. After a while, regularly occurring high-conflict issues are more easily resolved because the parties learn the benefits of cooperation in practice. The existence of fewer conflicts cuts back the desire to litigate, meaning there will be fewer conflict-related costs in terms of money, time, and stress.
Second,“Less bitterness over custody means parents are less burdened by, or isolated from their children.”Custodial parents in sole custody situations (wherein the sole decision-making power rests with that parent) may feel burdened or trapped by their parental responsibilities which leave them emotionally and physically exhausted. Non-custodial parents (who get little to no input in decision-making) may feel isolated from their child if their parental role is reduced to paying support and visits. This leads some parents to pull away from their children emotionally. Joint custody alleviates these psychological issues by continually reinforcing shared parenting roles. The more a person is engaged with his or her child as a parent, the more readily they continue involvement.
Third, “Shared responsibility and frequent contact can minimize conflicts over child support.” Regular contact and participation in decision-making encourages parents to be attentive to their children’s needs. When concern is diverted away from relationship-based conflicts between the parents and focused instead on the children and their best interests, parents may be more willing to make sacrifices to ensure children are provided for even in financially tight situations.
Lastly, “Joint custody provides a neutral space for children to adjust to post-separation disruption”. After a separation or divorce, children often experience feelings of loss from the sudden absence of one parent in their life. Joint custody helps children adjust to their post-separation lives through regular physical access and the knowledge that both parents are participating in major decision-making. In turn, they will feel loved by both parents and they will see that their parents are working together despite their marital conflicts to care for them and will feel important.
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