When you’re going through a divorce, it can seem like everything is difficult. Your divorcing spouse is difficult. The decisions you have to make are frustrating and time-consuming, and they will affect your life for a long time to come. What about custody of your kids? Is there a reasonable way to set a fair custody arrangement or does it have to be a battle?
The truth is that most divorcing parents do not need to battle it out for a favorable custody arrangement. In most cases, both parents are fundamentally sound, loving, and well-meaning, although it may be hard to tell that during the divorce process itself.
If your ex is a decent parent, North Carolina’s courts are likely to grant joint legal custody and maximize each parent’s physical custody to the extent possible. This is because custody decisions are to be made in the children’s best interest and, in most cases, having a strong, loving relationship with both parents is in the children’s best interest.
The good news is that you will be given an opportunity to work out the custody arrangement that suits you both, as much as possible. Most cases go to mediation, where a neutral third party facilitates the discussion so that both parents feel heard and a resolution is possible.
Legal and physical custody
With that in mind, you will need to resolve these custody questions:
Who will have legal decision-making authority (legal custody) over the major decisions involving the children’s school, medical care, and religious upbringing? In most cases, this will be shared between the parents.
How much time will each parent spend with the children? If it will be roughly equal, how will you make things fair between the parents so that they can feel equally a part of the children’s lives?
As you consider the question of physical custody, or how much time each parent spends with the kids, try to think of how to structure the parenting plan to ensure the children have significant time with two loving, actively involved parents. Design your parenting plan with the principle that both parents are important and with the goal of capitalizing on what each parent has to offer.
As you try to design a parenting plan that treats the parents equally and fairly, be practical about resources. Also, be practical about time constraints and outside commitments like work schedules, required travel, and the like. Can these be changed so that the other parent is the default caregiver when you’re not available?
Creating a custody agreement and parenting plan may be a challenge, but it can be done. Your kids are relying on you to make it a fair one.