Creative Custody

Posted by in Articles, Stephanie Lowe-Sagebiel

by Stephanie Lowe-Sagebiel

The ongoing issues of divorce never seem to get more complicated than when children are involved.  Many times, parents, who are still in the midst of dealing with their own grief and loss, feel completely overwhlemed when considering how to organize their children’s lives.  As a result, beleaguered parents may ask their attorneys and judges for assistance and may end up with something akin to the Indiana Parenting Guidelines.

Custody arrangements do not have to be left up to the courts.  You know your family and your children better than anyone.  Different arrangements can meet the needs of different personalities and parenting styles.  For example, the following scenarios show some creative ways that parents have been able to shape unique shared custody relationships.

Scenario #1:

Parents allow the children to live in one house while the parents move in and out.  This scenario can work well to alleviate the stress on children going from one location to another with the potential to forget schoolwork, comfort items, toiletries and clothes.  This also provides a sense of consistency and permanency for children.

The challenges to this scenario begin with the cost of maintaining three separate locations (for mom, dad and children).  It can be expensive.  Also, parents would have to maintain a predictable and somewhat flexible schedule to be continually available for the kids in their own location.

Scenario #2:

Some parents recognized that, since the divorce, siblings may seem to compete for parental attention – overwhelming both parents and children. As a result, parents have built in “alone time” with each child into their weekly arrangement.  Although both children are with one parent for a few days, there are two to three days each week when the siblings split and spend time alone with each parent.

The challenges to this scenario begin with anxiety about sibling separation. For some parents and children this could never be an option because the sibling connection and need for support is so strong.  For other families, however, this might be a good fit.  Also, because this is more of a complicated arrangement, parents in high-conflict situations may not be able to negotiate the terms.

Whatever the outcome, most children and teens do best when their calendar is predictable and consistent.  Create two “Kid Calendars” (one for mom and one for dad) that outline their weekly structure, and create pictures for young children who cannot yet read.  Since school-age children operate naturally from a school-based calendar, any changes in custody should be made at the beginning of first semester, holiday break, second semester, spring break or summer (different schools will have different year-round calendars).

For more information or assistance in developing a creative custody arrangement, please feel free to contact CenterPoint Counseling.