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Readers Respond: What Are the Biggest Challenges to Making Joint Custody Work?

Responses: 42

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Sharing joint physical custody, also known as "shared parenting," "shared custody," or "dual residence," can be quite challenging to negotiate and manage. Share the biggest joint custody challenges you've faced so far, and how you've managed to resolve those issues in order to make joint custody work more effectively for you and your family.

A Child's Burden

Children do well with a relationship with both parents. Children need a home base and a place they feel secure. I do not believe that asking a child to split their lives, their friends, their homes, their values, and their rules is healthy for them. We don't ask children of non-divorced families to do this. Children of non-divorced families do not have mediators, counselors, advisors, lawyers, and judges involved in the decisions of their lives. We need to treat children of divorced families the same as children of intact families. Intact families do not share "exact" time. Children need structure, consistency, and peace. It is has become the child's burden to act as a ping-pong ball between parents. Clearly this is not in the child's best interests.
—Guest Lost in translation

Joint Custody & School Struggles

Just wondering if anyone knows the answer… There were court orders in place for my children when I separated from my ex. My children are 16 and 13 now and want to live with me. I have my 13-year-old with me and need to enroll her in a school nearby, but my ex demands that she has the final decision about the school, which I don't want her to because she’s a control freak and demands everything her way. All I am trying and wanting to do is give my kids a better opportunity in life. My ex won't release my 13-year-old from the old school until she goes to the school I have found to see if "it is a good school.” Really, I'm just wondering if court orders can have an affect on my children. Now they want to live with me. Can I put them in a new school without being released from their old schools? I’m grateful for any information. I’m just trying to avoid the court as my kids have been through enough from my ex.
—Guest Jason

It can be hard in so many ways!

Reading these replies breaks my heart. There can be so many different reasons co-parenting is hard. For me, it was hard to find a way to put my anger and hurt aside, so I could find some energy to focus on my sons. For the first year, communication with my ex was so tense and painful, but we were able to remain civil, most of the time, and certainly in front of the kids. Counseling for me helped, to get a bit of distance from my marriage so I could look around and ahead, instead of staying stuck. This is behind me now and my sons (who are grown) did benefit from spending time with both of us. Neither of us was perfect, but somehow it seems to have worked.
—Guest Coparent Writer

A Daughter's Thoughts?

I am a single father who lives with a woman. My daughter is 12, and I am seeking 50/50 custody because I feel it is important for her to spend time with her father. Her mother delegates our phone calls and is always taking her time on drop offs and pick-ups. She has a boyfriend (the cause of the divorce) and has my daughter convinced she needs to be with her more. I am scared that my daughter might turn on me. What do I do? She is 12. Do I just go with it or let it stay the same? I feel like a father with very little communication, and she does not know what her mother is doing. We go to court soon so please pray for my daughter and me.
—Guest RC

Scared Mom

My ex and I have "true joint custody" of my five-year-old daughter. He got re-married the day after our divorce was final and is already expecting another baby. All of this happened within five months. He has not given me a cent in child support. I have so far been extremely nice to him, letting him get our child every weekend. Now, he is wanting to keep her a entire week and I told him I don't agree with that. He says he has a babysitter for her while him and his wife work. I have no clue who this babysitter is and she would be staying with them 8 hours + a day. I don't even know where my ex lives.... I just know the city he lives in, which is an hour away from my house. My question is: If we go to court, will the judge agree to let her stay a week with him and a week with me? I'm terrified for my child. She does not want to be away from me and her brother for that long. It would be terribly stressful on her. He also is a recovering alcoholic, with tons of DUI's. Help!
—Guest michelle

Joint Physical Custody is a Disaster

Joint physical custody sounds great on paper. The kids get to see both parents for equal time, no one has to pay support, etc. I have dealt with it for over five years and am finally changing things. Because of joint custody, my ex could (and did) arbitrarily decide what he would and would not financially contribute to. For example, once I remarried, he decided he didn't have to contribute to medical insurance anymore. But aside from the challenges you face with your ex, think about your children. If your child is constantly toggled back and forth then YOUR CHILD never has a home. No stability. No predictability. They are constantly on the move and never have all of their things in one place. They are turned into little nomads, all in the name of being "fair" to the other parent. My ex only wanted it to avoid child support. I would GLADLY refuse child support if he would just quit fighting and give our children what they deserve--a stable living environment where they can feel at home.
—Guest lllm3

Enough!

I am a man who has his daughter half the time. I split everything down the middle, cost-wise, with her mother. We have never been married. And the 50/50 time we have done has been for the last four years. My daughter is 5 now, and this is her way of life. And she loves us both very much! Things were fine until I found out my daughter's mother was dating a married man. I told her she can do with her life as she wants, but not to put my daughter in that situation. So after that, I got served papers. She wants joint legal custody, but she wants sole physical custody. Oh, and of course she wants money as well! I guess I just don't know if I am crazy for voicing my opinion. Because she said its controlling of me. I am my daughter's protection. I would respect it, and I would hope she would voice her opinion if I was doing something wrong. So now she won't ever answer the phone. We have zero communication. She tries to have other people call for her. And she tries to just email me. I find it very childish.
—Guest adam

Control and Money

I have a 9-year-old son. He come to visit me over his Christmas break (for a whole 6 days that his mother let me see him). The first hour he was here with me, he informed me that the married man living in the house with him and his mother (who she had a baby with was holding the 3 month old infant upside down and yelling at it for not sleeping. I have had problems with my ex previously. She blocked my phone from my son's cell phone that was specifically for me to reach him on. She wouldn't let him answer my calls or emails at home. She only allowed me to see him 10 days out of a year. She moved and changed jobs numerous times - never informing me of the changes. After my son told me about the man and what he had done, I called her and confronted her about it. She is denying it and calling this man a blessing. She is pregnant again with his child. This will be this man's 7th Child with his fourth woman. He berates my ex in front of my son as well as smokes and drinks. And now she wants more money!
—Guest Mike

Joint Custody Issues

I have to agree with everyone's opinion on joint legal and physical custody. I, as well, have a very hard time communicating with my ex. If she doesn't like something I'm doing, she threatens to take me back to court. I also believe she tries to influence my kids' thoughts. With her doing that, it's almost impossible to even breathe. My kids have their own thoughts and can express them without the help of their mom's influence. It really stinks that they have to go through that because it hurts them.
—Guest guest1

Jennifer, Don't Be a Pawn

Jennifer, you've swallowed the dads'-rights line unthinkingly. Read the comments here! Better yet, read what the legislatures have to say. Those that have taken the time to study the issue find that 50/50 is *not* a good idea if the kids can't handle it, if the parents can't communicate well, or if there's been abuse. Kids don't "get used to" whatever we want them to get used to! They're people, and they're powerless, and it harms them to be shuffled around. How would you like to live out of a suitcase, having to figure out where you are every time you wake up? Think a little bit, please. Shared custody works when the parents are good communicators and are committed to working together -- and agree that shared is best. Otherwise, no -- and judicially, legislatively, the pendulum is swinging away from the experiment. But only after doing considerable damage.
—Guest nana

It Can Work, but You Need to Provide!

My ex and I split up three years ago. He was very bitter towards me, and this is still the case! We agreed to joint parenting, and my son was happy with this. The difficulty we face is that my ex does not pay for anything. He doesn't provide my son with clothes or dinner money, pocket money, etc. Therefore, I have to take financial responsibility. This is an issue when he spends 50% of his time with his dad. My ex has also moved several girlfriends in over this period of time, and his parenting skills differ to mine. The issue we have now is that my son would like to stay with me, but feels too loyal to his dad to change anything. I regret agreeing to the shared custody, and as it is now only my son who can change things.
—Guest Haylz

A Jugde Who Did Not Care

My ex has not seen my daughter at all during her three-and-half years of life...much less attempted to support her. She is sheltered and has only been away from my husband and I once or twice in her entire life - for short periods of time. My husband is her daddy as far as she understands. I was a stay-at-home mom for the first two years, and for the last year and a half I've been working at a preschool, and she is in my class. Also, my ex has a history of domestic violence, anger, and drug issues. Once incident involved my daughter and nearly killed her when she was just four months old! We had a two-year protective order placed against him. And currently he's on felony probation for choking his ex girlfriend. Because we have moved for work-related purposes, we are now with a different court, and they just granted my ex joint custody, and my daughter is expected to leave with this stranger this weekend and then all summer. I understand, even with his pattern of domestic violence and drug abuse, that he is the father of my precious baby girl, but this is too much!
—Guest Prayingforthebest

Parenting is a Privilege, Not a Right

My son's father has done nothing but verbally abuse, stalk, and harass me since I told him I was leaving when I was pregnant. He does weird things and then denies them, and he tells me I am sick and psychotic and need help. He has tried to force court-ordered counseling because he claims I have serious issues. I do my best not to speak to him unless I have to. Whenever I call to inform him of something regarding our child, he lashes out at me with some degrading opinion about my character. If I never saw a penny of child support in order to never hear or see him again, I would be just fine. I raise our child financially, emotionally, and physically. Him and other fathers seem to think that showing up is the only important thing in a child's life. Sometimes concessions have to be made so they can have consistency and stability. The fact is, we never got married; therefore I belvieve "half of everything" - without INVESTING in it - you are not entitled to!
—Guest Itsaprivelage

Weak Court Systems

The courts fail to truly consider the most important person involved in broken relationships - the children - who never get their day in court or are ever seen by the judge or lawyers. Because of the courts' failure to interact with these young victims, who never had a choice from the beginning, they continue to make rulings that inevitably destroy young lives and create a social pattern that will never be broken. They think abusive, controlling fathers should have rights to their children, even if their sole purpose is to destroy the mother of the child - and that is NOT in the best interest of the child. Wake up! The judicial system as it stands is hypocritical and diminishes the faith of upstanding citizens in this country.
—Guest tluciano

Feeling Alienated and Hurt

My ex-wife and I have joint / shared custody, and for the past 4 years she has done nothing but use my son, and our relationship, as a pawn for her wrongdoings. She’s moved with my son three times in the past four years, and she’s lived with two different men, along with my son. It eats me up inside because my son is in the middle of it. Meanwhile, I have been stable since our divorce. I don't reside with anyone because we agreed in our divorce degree to wait for that until our child is older; yet she has broken every agreement she made in the decree. Lawyer after lawyer tells me there is nothing they can do about it. Now, after just battling over where he will start school - which was in the decree - also I have to hire a lawyer just to enforce it. We had mediation scheduled but she cancelled it two days prior. The following month, I get notification that she is pregnant by a boyfriend who lives 120 miles away, and now she wants to take my custody away. My poor son! Poor me, too. The system is a joke!
—fathersstruggle

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