Joint Physical Custody: Making it Work
When two women came before King Solomon to resolve a dispute about which of them was the real mother of a child, he suggested cutting the child in two. The child of one of these women died when she rolled over on it in the night and crushed it, but each woman claimed the surviving child as her own. When Solomon suggested cutting the surviving child in two, the true mother revealed herself because she was willing to give up her child to the lying woman, as heartbreaking a decision as it is. King Solomon knew that the real mother would forego possession of the child so that the child might live.
In the world of battling parents, that kind of wisdom does not apply.
Shared custody cannot work with angry parents using the child as a weapon or proxy in a continuing battle with a former spouse. In other words, shared custody is not cutting the child in two; it is sharing him or her.
Shared custody should not be tried in high-conflict divorces, and it works best in low-conflict failed marriages. Research suggests that the parents’ emotional adjust is the best predictor of how each will behave after the divorce. Other key considerations are the desire of the parent to make joint custody work, the child’s needs and personality and the financial situation of the couple.
According to Ms. Zinner, joint physical custody works best when:
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PARENTING CLASSES -- In some jurisdictions, parenting classes for the parents of minors are now required as a preliminary to divorce. The classes teach parents how to minimize the negative effects of divorce on their children and serve to restate parental responsibilities in the context of divorce. They are not an eleventh-hour attempt at marriage counseling.
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