Parents and guardians can arrive at various forms of shared custody. Even when everyone involved puts significant time and effort into planning the arrangement, it doesn’t always work out.
When Shared Custody Isn’t Working
These are a few steps people can take when their shared custody arrangement isn’t working and how they could improve the situation.
1. Shrink the Distance
Distance is a big culprit in failed custody arrangements. Commuting to pick kids up or visit them at a partner’s house isn’t always easy. Personal or professional obligations may cause one parent to move to a new location in the same city or state, leaving them farther away from their kids.
The co-parents should discuss commuting alternatives if the distance is the main problem for their shared custody arrangement. One parent could drive farther to meet the other in the middle when switching kids between their houses. Many possible arrangements could improve the situation with a productive conversation.
2. Find Proof of Unfit Parenthood
Many times shared custody has a state-based legal definition with a specific amount of time guaranteed to each guardian. Providing hard proof of someone being unfit to supervise kids alone may be the only way to change the custody arrangement. Guardians can research their state’s definition of abandonment, like physically neglecting a child for a year or child support for the same period.
This may be especially crucial when a parent with physical custody is making bad legal custody decisions. The two are different because legal custody grants the power to decide where the kids attend school, which religious services they attend and which medical services they get.
If one parent makes continual unsafe or unhealthy legal decisions, proof of unfit parenthood could change the shared custody arrangement based on each parent’s legal rights. A parental rights lawyer can help each individual decide their best path forward to proving this case, if they can at all.
3. Start Going to Therapy
People often think that going to therapy with someone means getting a romantic relationship back, but that isn’t always the case. In shared custody parents or guardians can attend therapy to mend their relationship as long-term parental partners.
Their communication styles may have broken over the year or they could hold resentments from their shared past. There may also be new issues no one knows how to address. A therapist can provide tools to repair these problems and help make shared custody work better for everyone involved.
4. Reflect on Personal Schedules
Schedules change for numerous reasons. A parent or guardian could start working more hours after changing jobs or getting promoted. The other could have to care for sick family members who need to age in place at home. Revising how shared custody works is always possible without adjusting what the law requires of both parties.
5. Establish New Boundaries
People always need to adapt their boundaries because life never stops changing. When a shared custody arrangement isn’t working, both parties should consider if their boundaries still receive respect.
New rules regarding appropriate communication and in-person interactions might make shared custody more manageable. Simple conversations addressing specific needs are the most helpful.
For example, one parent may prefer that if the other needs to fly with their baby, they take new steps to keep them comfortable, like packing specific formulas or paying for an extra seat. Voicing that concern and taking action when the other guardian crosses that boundary around the child are steps for anyone still striving to make shared custody work.
6. Request Supervised Visitation
Shared custody may be easier with a new supervised visitation schedule. Both guardians will continue their legally provided time with their child, but the tension may disappear with a third party watching one or both parents while the kids are in their homes. The children and teens would be safer and it could encourage irresponsible guardians to change their behavior for the better.
7. Call the Authorities for Emergencies
Dangerous behavior isn’t negotiable. However, it may be difficult to prove to a custody judge. Even though calling 911 may seem drastic, getting the other guardian’s behavior on a police report could help the shared custody arrangement change more quickly.
One or multiple repeated 911 calls would be immediate proof that the arrangement should change, especially if the police officers are witnesses to the state of the home environment or partner. It’s worth considering if one parent or guardian continually puts the kids at risk with their behaviors.
8. Ask What the Kids Prefer
When a child becomes old enough to make their own decisions, they could become part of the shared custody discussions. Teenagers get the ability to drive as well, so they can change custody schedules based on their responsibilities or preferences.
Teens could also join monthly logistics meetings between partners to discuss their schedules and travel preferences. Everyone would feel included and valued, which makes any tough conversation easier to figure out.
Figure Out the Next Steps
Requesting sole custody is a significant step, so consider trying these tips when shared custody isn’t working. Parents or guardians will have much more success by trying every possible avenue before building a case for a sole custody trial.