Going through a divorce often brings out a wide range of emotions such as anger, depression and frustration. When there are children involved, these emotions can sometimes spill over as couples work through decisions relating to child custody. This can make the idea of joint custody an intimidating and frightening concept, but it is possible for ex-spouses to work together for the benefit of their children.
Texas law and child custody
According to the Texas Family Code, most child custody arrangements are made to ensure that the child spends equal amounts of time with both parents. At one time, it was the norm for mothers to be given full custody. However, the courts have come to realize that this is not always in the best interest of the child. In fact, the Texas Family Code now includes a statement that it is the public policy of the State of Texas to assure frequent and continuing contact between child and parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of that child, and to encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child.
There are some exceptions to the tendency towards shared custody. If a parent has abused, neglected or put the child in harm's way, then the other parent may be granted full custody. However, for most parents, the custody will be split fairly evenly.
Putting emotions aside
While it can be difficult to let go of resentment and anger related to divorce, it is important to remember that the focus going forward should be placed on what is best for the children. This means that parents should keep their children shielded from any drama stemming from the legal process and put their personal feelings about their ex-spouse aside.
One way to do this is to remember that parents are always going to be in some form of contact. If it is too difficult for spouses to communicate with each other, they can send messages through their attorneys to avoid personal conflict. There are also resources such as OurFamilyWizard.com that are designed to assist in shared parenting, and make communication between divorced parents easier. These options can give each parent the opportunity to adjust to the changes occurring in their life and deal with their personal issues without involving their children.
As time moves on, parents can move to emails and text messages as they gradually rebuild their ability to communicate and work together to resolve issues involving their children. It is important for parents to remember that they will likely have to interact with each not only until their children are no longer minors, but for their entire lives. Developing the ability to work together as parents, in spite of any lingering resentment and hurt feelings, is often critical to the success of children after a divorce, as well as the ability for all involved to move on and become comfortable in their post-divorce lives.
It is important for both parents to have an equal part in their child's life and this means that each parent should work to create balance. A balanced and well-adjusted child generally has fewer issues as they grow older into their teens. To create a balance between two households, parents can use the following guidelines from Parents Magazine:
- Flexibility - raising a child requires flexibility so parents need to show understanding if a game runs late or a parent wants to take a trip with the child that extends into the other parent's schedule.
- Work and play - each parent should have an active role in every aspect of their child's life including homework, special outings, medical appointments and house rules.
- Pick a schedule that works for both parents and children.
- Avoid making negative comments about the other parent or step-parents.
By creating a healthy balance, parents will be able to work together for the benefit of their children and make it easier on their personal lives. Many times, a family law attorney, in addition to legal advice, can be a helpful source of advice as parents prepare to make the transition from one household to two.
Prepared by Matthew J. Hill, Managing Member of M. J. Hill & Associates, PLLC.