Deciding and Establishing the Child Custody Arrangements
Key Points
  • Coparenting in a divorce situation also means establishing custody arrangements. This arrangement should be fair for both parents to help alleviate any emotional trauma the child will experience through the divorce process and after.
  • A child may become frightened about where he or she will live, with which parent, where the parent will live, and may have feelings of being unwanted. It is up to both parents to alleviate these fears.
  • Do not put your child in the position to make a decision about what is best for him or her. Your child may not be making the best decision, he or she may only be making a decision to please one parent or the other.

You and the other parent need to agree on a custody arrangement for your child. Once you achieve this task, you have taken a great step to lessen the emotional trauma your child will experience. Your child deserves to be made aware of your custody decision as soon as possible. This should be done with both parents present if possible, so when questions are asked, each parent can participate in the answers and discussion, reinforcing that the custody arrangement was a mutually agreed upon decision. One of the most difficult experiences for a child is not to know where he or she is going to live and until this information is released, he or she will feel empty and potentially unwanted. Most of the questions your child will initially have can not be answered until the custody arrangement has been decided. Questions like the following; Who will take care of me? Where will I play? Will I live in the same place? Who will make me dinner? Will I every be left alone? etc.

Strategies and Tactics for Announcing the Custody Arrangements:

  • Be clear and concise and very matter of fact.
  • The older the child the more discussion you should permit.
  • Have an open mind and listen when your child is talking.
  • Have your answers to the expected questions well thought out.
  • Make sure you and the other parent have the same answers.
  • If possible, have the non-custodial parent deliver the news to reinforce that it was a mutual decision.
  • Emphasize how great visitation or parenting time will be.
  • Emphasize the benefits and fun of having two homes.
  • Always reinforce everything with positive thoughts.

If you have arrived at your custody arrangement by allowing your child to choose between you or the other parent, you may want to reconsider. Most of the time, a child does not realize what is best for him or her and making him or her choose between the parents can create severe guilt. A child should never be put in a position to choose one parent over the other.

If you have already told your child about the custody arrangement and wish you had done it differently, do not worry because what is done is done and you should not dwell on the past. In the future try to focus on using the strategies and tactics mentioned above during other divorce and/or separation related discussions.

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Suggested Reading
Creating a Successful Parenting Plan Creating a Successful Parenting Plan
This extraordinary book and computer disk offers separating or divorcing parents a sure-fire way to create a workable, practical parenting plan/agreement that is in the best interest of their children.

Author: Jayne A. Major, Ph.D.

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