The most important aspect of making shared custody work is ensuring both parents examine their personalities and find the ability to put their children above all else. It is essential to put your child(ren) first. To do this requires, of course, cooperation between the parents. Although it's simple to say, it is often difficult to accomplish and results in many unnecessary lawyers' bills.The building blocks of this cooperation are, in my view, the following:
- Communication: The ability of parents to communicate with each other on matters of their children, when it comes to school, holidays, scheduling and so on is extraordinarily important. Unfortunately, a lack of communication is often one of the issues leading to the marriage breakdown so this skill must be learned. It requires both parents to figure out what method of communication works most effectively for them: phone, text, email - there are so many options available these days that there will be something useful out there for you. It should go without saying that communicating through the children is the least effective method and should not be used.
- Consultation: Schedules set out in agreements and court orders rarely cover all possible situations, and so parents will need to consult with each other in order to make changes to access, educational decisions, medical concerns, and everything else that arises from having a child. Meaningful consultation involves not only asking for the other parent's opinion but actually listening and considering it and inviting further discussion when merited.
- Flexibility: When asked for a favour or a change to an existing agreement, remember that it is very likely that you will be in the position sometime to make a similar request and whatever your response is will be remembered. Be flexible.
- Compromise: No parent is ever truly satisfied by an agreement or a court order. It simply doesn't work that way. Consequently, there is always a parent sacrificing something. Effective parenting requires compromise, sometimes from one parent and sometimes the other. As long as there is a healthy give and take between parents, nobody will feel they are "always" the one sacrificing. This provides balance between the parents.
- Respect: Along with communication, successful shared custody requires that each parent respect the other. While this is difficult at times, shared custody means somewhere along the way, somebody made the decision both parents had valid and respectable viewpoints regarding the children. As such, it's important that even if one parent disagrees with the other's position, it's important to respect it without being immediately dismissive. This also means having enough respect for the other parent that you don't discuss problems or issues in front of your children.
Using these five points should lead you to better and more effective shared custody. The better you can cooperate with your ex, the less time you will spend in court or in your lawyer's office trying to work out these issues and the more time you'll spend with your children.