For parents who divorce, child custody presents some of the hardest decisions they make. You need to determine where the children will live, who gets to make major legal and medical decisions, and how to split time. You may find that one spouse is fighting for full custody because they think it may be easier and more stable for everyone.
Before you agree to this arrangement, though, there is more to consider. In fact, research shows that children who are in high conflict households actually fare worse than children whose parents divorce but do so without a lot of conflict and instead work together as effective co-parents. Even without problems, everyone benefits from you staying connected to the children you love. Quite simply, children need both parents in their lives.
Full Custody May Not Be Best
In Arizona, we no longer use the term custody. Instead, Arizona recognizes parenting time and legal decision making. It’s still common for people to talk about “custody” though when deciding where the child will live and who gets to make legal decisions. Typically, when people think of full custody, they are referring to the idea that one parent has most, if not all, of the parenting time with the child and they are able to make all legal decisions for the child.
A common idea some people still hold is that a child is always better off with his or her mother. If you are a man, the temptation becomes to grant your wife in a divorce. Like any “always” statement, this oversimplifies matters. Beyond assuming the mother is the best parent, it also directs you to a false binary choice.
Making that either/or choice can have consequences. A U.S. Census Bureau report found recently that 63% of suicides and 71% of high school dropouts nationwide come from single-parent households. Assuming the kids will be better off with just one full-time parent can have future unintended consequences for the kids.
This is not to blame the parent caring for the kids. The more you can do to stay involved, the more balance your children have. Knowing both of their parents love them and want them is important. Choosing one parent to have full custody takes away from your kids’ childhood.
It Isn’t Easier for You or Your Children
Even without thinking of the statistics, awarding full custody to only the mother can create problems. Being a parent means more than financial support. If you sign away your rights, it becomes harder to participate in a child’s life. Holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions become tricky when you don’t plan ways to have them together.
As a parent, you love your children. If you give full custody to your spouse in a divorce, you lose out on time connecting with them. The less time you spend, the harder it becomes to stay connected to your kids. You don’t know what they think or how they feel about the situation, and they don’t know how you do either, which can create confusion and feelings of abandonment.
Whatever the convenience of full custody, you lose out on critical parenting time that benefits you and your kids. Divorcing your spouse should not mean giving up your kids. You can plan together to avoid this. You can work with your spouse to make sure your children know they are a priority and loved by both of you.
Finding Ways to Stay Involved
Collaborative divorce offers tools to help you avoid the trap of a custody fight. You and your spouse may need to move on from each other, but you can work together to do so. With kids involved, this is critical. It won’t be easy, but your attorneys will work with you to focus on reaching the best agreement.
Fighting over full custody creates wounds not only for you and your spouse but for the children as well. Instead of deciding who gets them, talk about how each of you can stay involved. What times or activities are most important to you? What do you do with your kids that connects you to them?
As you talk through the details, you can start to form a plan. When you do so, you can work together to create a plan to share time with the kids that focuses on their best interests. Making this a priority can help hold everything together following a divorce. If you are considering divorce and have questions about custody, contact Ogborne Law for assistance.
Engaging with an attorney to protect your family is never an easy step. Whether you need to protect your family from the unthinkable or restructure your family through collaborative divorce, we’re here to help. When you’re ready to schedule a consultation with Michelle Ogborne, please visit the scheduling page to get started.