Traditional Custody and Parenting Plans
How to Win Child Custody)
The primary parent has the children three to four times as much as the other parent under a traditional custody plan. Some may say that the primary parent won "custody" while the other parent got "visitation." Try to avoid using the terms custody and visitation to describe just one parent. It implies that one parent has won and the other has lost. For example, refer to temporary custody rather than visitation. It may help keep a volatile situation under control.
Donít expect to create the ultimate plan on your first try. Start with the most sensible approach. Refine it frequently to meet the needs of your children, yourself and yes, your spouse. You two will remain partners in raising your children. There are enough problems without creating more by fighting about your children. Most fights about the children donít seem to really be about the children anyway. Parents often fight out of frustration, to punish the other parent or trumpet their own skills, to get their way with the children or to assert their rights. If youíre concerned about your children, then do what is best for them.
Your childrenís ages are the primary factor to consider when outlining a plan. Children of three or less donít do well when shuffled back and forth often. Studies show they need a primary home and frequent short visits with the other parent. Teenagers, on the other hand, may be happy with a flexible arrangement, especially if they have a say in when they will be staying where.
Children aged four through twelve are usually able to handle a regular schedule of alternating between parents. This might range from a traditional order where the children spend alternate weekends and one evening each week with the non-custodial parent, to a joint custody order where the children spend about half their time with each parent.
Remember: These studies determining the amount of disruption that can be tolerated by children of various ages did not include your children. Yes, these general conclusions apply to most children and are thus a valid guideline. Your children may be different, although probably not much different.
Lou and Susan had a twelve-year-old son. When they separated, Lou adjusted his work schedule to have his son stay with him one night a week. Lou left a little early on the day his son was coming to him in order to spend more time with him. He went into work a little late the next morning after dropping his son off at school. This weekday visitation makes more quality time available. It also reduces pressure on the already over-scheduled weekend.
Put your best plan into effect at separation. This is especially important if you are moving out and leaving the children behind with your spouse, most likely in the former family home. Fit your children into your schedule immediately if they arenít living with you. If you have a regular work schedule and donít have to travel, set up regular times to see the children. Tell them about this plan before you move out. Ask them for suggestions, now and if any occur to them later. Theyíll feel more involved and important without being burdened, and you wonít get painted as the dictatorial parent insensitive to all needs except your own.
Structure your plan as loosely as makes sense under your new circumstances. Fit your needs, and those of your children. Tailor your plan: Arrange to have priority with your children when you are in town if you are frequently gone. Work together: this is their other parent you are sharing your children with, not a total stranger.
Tell your children when you will see them and how the plan will work. Let them know that youíre getting a place to live that is also for them when they stay with you. Donít overlook your childrenís commitments when setting up a schedule. Be sensitive about interrupting their lives on a short notice. When something prevents you from keeping the schedule, or seeing your children as often as you would like, substitute telephone calls and cards.
Work with your spouse for your childrenís benefit. The more you do, the more it will become the continuing involvement of both parents in their childrenís lives. No one divorced the children.
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How to Win Child Custody
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