Joint Physical Custody: The Disadvantages

Joint physical custody is not without disadvantages. The child migrates between two homes, "never settled in one place." (Some parents avoid this by doing what is termed "nesting," whereby the child stays in the family home and the parents rotate their residency with him or her. This means that the divorced family must now maintain three residences – one of the child and one each for the parents).

Shifting between two residences can create problems, "when there are no consistent schedules known ahead of time, and children move back and forth at the whim to parental needs. Children with learning disabilities ...will have more trouble organizing their schoolwork when they shuttle between two homes."

But the big disadvantage of joint custody happens when the past becomes the prologue. "When parents have unresolved marital issues, joint custody can exacerbate family conflict. ...[J]oint custody requires much more frequent discussion between parents, and this contact can compound the conflict and animosity already present. When a parent remarries and there are ’step’ children, new loyalty issues need to be sorted out. The new spouse may resent the constant presence of the ex-spouse in the fabric of everyday life. In contrast, some people whose sole custody arrangement require minimal ex-spouse contact report that this allows them greater freedom to move forward with their lives."



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THE DON’Ts – Good parenting through divorce has a dimension that is negatively defined. Good divorced parents do not speak badly or make accusations about the other parent in front of a child. They do not force a child to choose sides, or use a child as a messenger or go-between, or pump a child for information about the other parent, or argue or discuss child support issues in front of a child. In short, they do not use a child as a pawn to hurt the other parent.
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