Going through a divorce with children is heartbreaking, exhausting, and costing from all points of view. The joint custody agreement is, in most cases, the best solution for parents and children. It is no news that even the most conflictual fight against parents should always have the best interest of the child at heart. But having joint custody with the other parent and offering your kids a safe, nurturing, and loving environment is not something to take for granted. Even if the court offered you joint custody, it does not mean a parent cannot lose it. Here are some risk factors to consider so you prevent any threats to the agreement!
Factors Which Can Affect Joint Custody
1. Child Neglect
Typically, when obtaining joint custody of children, both parents have to prove they are capable of offering the kids the best conditions to thrive. Even if both parents are now living separate personal lives, they must provide for the kids and make sure they meet and even exceed the children’s best interests.
However, as it sometimes happens, one parent might risk losing joint custody in case of neglect. No matter how much you tried to lower the impact of divorce on your children, and no matter how good friends you are with your ex, some situations of neglect can still occur.
According to family law, child neglect is more than just forgetting to make breakfast for the little ones when they are over your place for the weekend. It is more than missing a trip because you had an emergency at work.
Child neglect is a form of child abuse that occurs as a pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect translates in physical and emotional damages, including but not limited to:
- Physical abuse disguised as corporal punishments or accidents: scars, bruises, scratches, grazes, bumps, and other physical signs that might raise suspicion to the other parent;
- Physiological symptoms that show concerning the time spent by the child with a parent: fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, loss of appetite, etc.
- Emotional manifestations when the child goes to or comes back from the other parent’s home: irritability, fear, sadness, social withdrawal, etc.
In case you, as a parent, start noticing that the child behaves oddly whenever she/he is with your ex or starts manifesting symptoms of physical or emotional neglect, you should find the right family lawyer and discuss your options. Perhaps, your ex goes through a rough patch, shows signs of depression or fatigue, lost the job, or feels that having co-custody of the children is overwhelming. In this case, before you contest the joint custody agreement and start yet another legal dispute, try to mitigate things. A family lawyer could help both of you deal with the situation and preserve the joint custody for the greater good of the child should you show a willingness to make some changes.
2. Co-Parenting Issues
Some co-parenting or relationship issues might have tanked your marital relationship in the first place and continue to do so even after you divorced and separated. Some of the risk factors related to co-parenting issues that are also risk factors to your joint custody agreement include the following:
- Disagreement on who pays for what when it comes providing the child with the best of care, education, entertainment, etc.;
- Division of labor that does not comply with the joint custody agreement;
- The inability of the parents to cooperate on visiting schedules, educational options, holidays, life choices, healthcare, and more.
Even if your joint custody agreement enforces concrete rules and principles to guide both of you through the jungle of co-parenting in a divorce/separation case, sometimes you will disagree on many issues. As the child grows and starts having other needs, both of you should revisit your joint custody agreement to make the necessary adjustments that comply with the realities of your child, who turns into an adolescent and an adult.
Should such disagreements jeopardize the co-parenting situation, you should both consult with the family lawyer and a co-parenting counselor or a family therapist. The sooner you reach the same page as your ex on finances, boundaries, education, healthcare, etc., the better your child will develop a happy and healthy life from both a physical and emotional point of view. The last thing you want is to have a grown-up son or daughter still dealing with child divorce symptoms, separation, and co-custody unresolved issues.
3. Unstable Living Situation and Lack of Resources to Provide for the Child
One of the core elements of sharing the custody of your children with your ex is to prove that, at all times, you are capable of offering kids stable living conditions and all the resources they need to have the best of lives.
However, if you and your ex do not see eye to eye and cannot even stand in the same room, a temporary job loss or problems at home could determine your ex take you to court again and ask for sole custody. Life happens to us in ways we cannot control it. However, you can still keep your joint custody even if you are in between a rock and a hard place now.
If you lost your job, look for another one, show everyone that you are a responsible parent trying to make ends meet. Instead of falling into depression and increase your chances of endangering the custody agreement, be proactive. Consult with the family lawyer about your options and make sure you show any court that you are able and willing to solve any situation that puts the co-custody at risk.
Raising children together when you are not a couple anymore – or not even friends – is an excruciating process and has a learning curve no one should ignore. However, even if your ex waits for you to make the smallest mistake to contest the custody agreement, you should not falter. If the two of you get along just fine, then you will have no problems solving the inherent life issues that will arise. But even if you are in open conflict with the other parent, keep in mind that it is in the best interest of your child to have both of you present and active in their life. So stay three steps ahead of everybody and ensure your child will become an accomplished adult that does not remember the divorce and custody years as the darkest period of their life.