Child Custody in Amicable Divorce
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody
In an Amicable Divorce the family psychologist meets with the parents to work out a healthy parenting plan that is sensitive to the individual needs of the children. The family psychologist anticipates the changing developmental needs of each of the children and assists the family in planning for changes in the schedule. By improving communication and attending to changing needs of the family many of the negative ancillary effects of divorce can be avoided. Families who have committed to the Amicable Divorce process have often found that they do not experience many of the problems with their adolescents, college age students and young adults some years later because of the preventive benefits of this process.
- How Should Parents Address Issues Concerning the Children in a Divorce?
- Parents Reaching an Agreement For the Children’s Schedule at Separation
- How to Negotiate a Parenting Plan Meeting the Children’s Needs?
- What is Co-Parenting Counseling in Amicable Divorce?
- How Can the Co-Parenting Counselor Help Divorcing Parents?
- What Can a Parenting Plan Do?
- How Will the Child Custody Agreement Be Formalized Following Separation?
- How Do Parents Change a Child Custody Agreement?
- What If Parents Can’t Reach an Agreement On Child Custody?
- How Will the Divorce Affect the Children?
- When Should the Parents Tell the Children About the Divorce?
- Do the Children Already Know That the Divorce is Coming?
- Should the Parents Be Together When They Tell the Children About the Divorce?
- What is Legal Custody of Children in Pennsylvania?
- When Should Separated or Divorced Parents See the Children?
- What is a Primary Child Custody Schedule?
- What is a 50/50, Shared Physical Child Custody Schedule?
- What Does a 50/50 Child Custody Schedule Look Like?
- How Do Separated or Divorced Parents Schedule Holiday Custody Time With Their Children?
- What Else Can the Child Custody Agreement Provide?
It is important to stabilize the family as soon as possible. If there are children, child custody issues will be a topic at the first meeting. Both parents need access to the children on a regular and predictable basis. Money must be available to cover necessary expenses of both spouses and the children.
The children need to know when they are going to see their mother or their father. They need to know that their parents care and are going to be available to them. The parents need to know when children will be available and when they will be returned. ^TOP
At the first meeting, a temporary schedule must be put in place so that there is predictable access of the children for both parents. The custody lawyers will guide the parents on how to schedule weekday time, weekend time, holiday time, and vacations. They will make suggestions on pick up times, driving, and different schedules. The custody schedule must be in the best interests of the children. While the custody lawyers will advocate for their clients’ wishes for custody time, they will also try to focus the parents on schedules that work best for the children.^TOP
How to Negotiate a Parenting Plan Meeting the Children’s Needs?
Successful negotiation of parenting plans begins with understanding how children’s developmental needs change over time and require schedules that evolve as a result. Child-centered plans take into account the child’s age, gender, developmental stage and family variations in ways that help parents stay focused on the child, relieving some of the pressures of decision-making faced by parents, attorneys and judges. Knowing more about what most children experience at different ages and maturity levels can give you an edge in developing a parenting plan that is likely to be supported by both parents and promote optimal adaptation for children.^TOP
What is Co-Parenting Counseling in Amicable Divorce?
Co-parenting in an Amicable Divorce is a resource to the divorcing family that facilitates positive communication between the parents and the children. The co-parenting counselor meets with the parents and provides immediate assistance in planning answers for the questions and anxiety children may experience as they learn about the separation and divorce.
In a neutral environment, parents are able to plan how they will work together for the benefit of their children. Predictably tough questions and answers are rehearsed. Difficult transitions and special needs are anticipated. Issues of timing are planned with sensitivity to the changing needs of everyone involved.^TOP
How Can the Co-Parenting Counselor Help Divorcing Parents?
Always focusing on fairness, positive clear communication, respect and responsibility, parents and children benefit from the ongoing safety of co-parenting in an amicable divorce.
The co-parenting counselor is highly experienced in issues families face about:
- Sibling conflict
- Time management
- Learning abilities and disabilities
- Medical care
- Peer relationships
- Birthday parties and special events. ^TOP
There are many elements of a good parenting plan. Issues need to be anticipated and decided by both parents not the legal system. By capitalizing on the strengths of each parent and the uniqueness of the separate households, parents can invent a parenting plan that empowers each family member to function at their best.
By containing the conflict of the divorce, parenting issues are addressed in the best interests of the children and family. Parents can prevent the heartbreak of future problems with acting out teenagers and young adults. Amicable co-parenting also gives parents the tools to address issues with children who are already oppositional and self-destructive. ^TOP
How Will the Child Custody Agreement Be Formalized Following Separation?
Once an agreement is reached for a child custody agreement, the lawyers will draft an agreement for a custody order that will be signed by the judge assigned to the custody and divorce actions. By entering a custody order, the parents avoid a custody hearing before the court. ^TOP
Of course, families change and custody schedules should also change. When modification of the custody order is needed or desired, the parents can schedule another meeting with their lawyers to change the agreement.
The parents are free to change the written custody agreement in any way they both agree to change. For example, if one parent is to return the children at 8:00 p.m. and the parents agree that the return time should be 8:30 p.m. they can deviate from the written agreement. However, any changes that are going to be ongoing and long term changes should be reduced to writing to avoid misunderstandings and arguments in the future.^TOP
Not all parents are able to resolve all custody scheduling issues or access time amicably at a meeting with their lawyers. Sometimes there are extraordinary situations with the parents or the children. Psychological issues, special needs, medical issues, addictions, or infidelity may make it difficult for the parents to find a custody schedule that is in the best interests of the children and one that works for the parents, too. When these difficult child custody issues present themselves, the custody lawyers can refer the family to a psychologist or child specialist. The psychologist can meet with the parents without the lawyers to help them focus on their children. The psychologist can show the parents how the parents themselves are affecting their children. The psychologist can meet with the children to get a better understanding of the difficulties facing the family. The child specialist can suggest different schedules for custody that meet the needs of the family. ^TOP
Parents beginning the divorce process often agonize over the potential impact of divorce on their children. One common concern is the timing of when to tell the children. With the help of a psychologist in the Amicable Divorce process parents are able to plan for the delivery of this difficult news.^TOP
Some of the considerations include: the ages of the children, how aware the children may be that the parents are in conflict or have reason to separate, coincidence with important celebrations, holidays, and the start or end of a school year, and the personalities of the children. Some children need time to process and plan for a forthcoming separation; others do not do well with too much time to anguish over where they will be living or how things will work out. Any number of adults report that they anticipate a specific holiday with discomfort because that date was when their parents told them of their plan to divorce. Adult children have told their psychologists that their parents told them that they were divorcing and that everyone continued to live in the same house for another two years. One young man said everything was the same except that he felt like icicles hung from the ceiling.
Sometimes children are told about the separation the day the real estate sign goes up in front of the house or the day before the moving truck arrives. One girl learned about her parents divorce from the daughter of her mother’s friend. She overheard her mother, a real estate agent, making calls to list her best friend’s house.^TOP
Many children recognize that they have known the divorce was coming for years, others who may live with much more open conflict between their parents are completely blindsided when parents tell them that they plan to separate. Children sometimes express relief that it is finally out in the open. Others may despair the end of the convenient family where everyone and everything was all in one place.^TOP
Parents usually wait until a time when they can both tell the children together. Although this is such an important life change for the children, it makes sense to deliver the news together. If one parent delays this joint meeting for too long a child may start to come to his or her own conclusions about what serious thing may be going on. Several children have reported to their therapists that they were relieved when they were told about the divorce because they thought that someone in the family was dying of a terrible disease.
Anticipating and planning for these important transitions that all members of the family will experience during the separation and divorce supports the needs of all members of the family. ^TOP
Legal custody is the decision-making authority that parents have over their minor children. When parents separate or divorce, almost all parents share legal custody of the children. Legal custody is defined in Pennsylvania as the legal right to make major decisions affecting the best interests of a minor child, including but not limited to, medical, religious, and educational decisions.^TOP
When Should Separated or Divorced Parents See the Children?
Parents need to find a custody schedule that meets the needs of their family and is in the best interests of their children. Parents often confuse schedules that they believe are in the parent’s best interest but the focus needs to be on the children’s best interests. The attorneys will guide the parents in finding a schedule that is in the best interests of the children and works for the family.^TOP
A typical custody schedule provides for the children to live primarily with one parent. The parents will alternate having physical custody of the children on weekends, for example from Friday through Sunday evening. In addition, the non-residential parent would have the children one evening during the week, either for dinner or overnight. The variations on this basic theme are endless and can be made to meet the needs of every family. This is a primary custody schedule.^TOP
Many parents want to share physical custody of their children equally—50/50—so they have a shared or joint physical custody schedule.
For some families, this schedule works best to have the children spend one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent. An example of how to accomplish this would be for one parent to collect the children from school on Friday one week and keep them all week until the next Friday when the other parent will collect them from school.
For other families with younger children, spending a week away from the children is not in the best interests of the children and too difficult for the parents. A shared custody schedule for these families can be achieved by alternating the weekend time each parent has with the children, from Friday after school until Monday morning when the custodial parent takes the children to school. With the alternating weekends in this manner, the parents have the four weeknights to divide between them with one parent typically taking custody of the children on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other parent taking custody of the children on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Although it may seem confusing, if you chart this out, the parents will see that one parent has the children for five days, that other for two days with the other parent, etc. ^TOP
What Does a 50/50 Child Custody Schedule Look Like?
Divorced or separated parents need to have a schedule for the holidays. This promotes family harmony. In addition, everyone will know in advance where the children will be on a holiday. Although custody schedules usually do not apply to children over 18 years old, families often maintain the custody holiday schedule for the adult children. This takes the guessing out so that the schedule determines where the children are to be.
Many families identify the holidays that are important to them and share them on an even/odd year basis. The schedule can be holiday specific or can be weekend inclusive. In other words, if the Mother has Memorial Day, should the schedule provide for the children to be in Mother’s custody on Memorial Day itself, say from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. or should the holiday be defined as commencing Friday at 5:00 p.m. and continuing through Memorial Day at 8:00 p.m. Most families provide that the children are always in Mother’s custody on Mother’s Day and in Father’s custody on Father’s day.^TOP
The list is endless on what parents can include in the custody schedule to meet their specific family needs. Sometimes they address transportation of the children, or telephone contact, emergency care, availability of information, etc.^TOP