When going through a divorce or break-up, many parents are concerned about obtaining custody of their children. Whether you have joint custody, primary custody, sole custody, or visitation, there are responsibilities that you have toward your child. Also, there are custodial parent responsibilities that you have toward your child’s other parent. Read on to find out what you need to do once you have custody of your child.
Understand the Different Types of Child Custody
In many custody cases, both parents receive joint custody, which means that they are responsible for the child’s care. In other cases, one parent receives primary custody, and the other receives visitation. In a small minority of cases, one parent receives sole custody. The other parent gets no visitation rights, but this generally only happens when there are extenuating circumstances, such as abuse.
- Physical custody refers to having the child with you in your home. If you have joint physical custody, then you will have your child approximately half of the time. This can vary substantially, depending on the circumstances.
- Legal custody refers to making decisions for the child. If you have joint legal custody, you and your ex will need to work together to decide which religion your child will be brought up in and where they will go to school and which pediatrician you will use.
Comply With Visitation and Co-Parenting Time Agreements
One of the simple truths of sharing custody of a child is that you will not have him or her in your physical presence all the time. This cannot be easy, but both parents need to cultivate and maintain a relationship with the child. Co-parenting and visitation agreements are made with that in mind. Do your absolute best to stick to the plans that you have made regarding visitation and co-parenting.
If you have visitation, show up on time and return your child on time. If you have primary custody, then make sure your child is ready on time. If you have supervised visitation, don’t be discouraged; arrive every time you are supposed to and do your best to create a good relationship with your child.
Continue Communication With Your Ex
You might not prefer to spend time talking to your ex, but since you are co-parenting and working together to raise your child, you have to. Do not keep important information about your child from him or her. Discuss any concerns that come up at school or concerning your child’s medical care.
Whether you share custody or have primary custody of your child, you should still call your ex if you need to take them to the emergency room or a regular doctor’s appointment. Your ex should also be invited to participate in any parent-teacher conferences or meetings with your child’s counselor, physical therapist, speech therapist, or other specialists that he or she sees.
In addition to talking over essential developments with your child, you should also discuss everyday topics like rules, whether a pre-teen or teen is dating someone, etc. Neither parent should be the only one to know about an essential subject in your child’s life. If your child has been bullied at school or is caught drinking alcohol at a party, both parents need to be aware and discuss how to handle the situation.
Keep Financial Discussions Open and Honest
If you pay child support and cannot make a payment or lose your job, discuss this with your ex before finding out through a missing payment. Similarly, if your ex is supposed to cover half of the expenses like orthodontic braces or summer camp, do not make plans to do these things before talking to your child’s other parent.
When necessary, emergency surgery needs to be done, but something like non-urgent dental work or an expensive school trip does not need to be decided by one person on the day you find out about it. Take the time to talk to your ex and decide together, based on what you can afford.
Do Not Leave the State With Your Child Without Notifying Your Ex
In most cases, each parent needs to let the other know when they will be taking their child out of state. This might not be the case if you live close to the state line, and you need to cross the border to go to a medical appointment or a playdate, of course. But if you are leaving the state for vacation, you will generally make sure that your child’s other parent is aware.
If you choose to relocate or if you need to move for work in a similar vein, discuss this with your ex before making plans. Depending on how your custody arrangement is set up, the court might decide that you cannot take your child with you when you relocate. It is better for everyone if you and your ex can develop a solution and decide how such a move will work.
Once you decide on a new visitation agreement, you can have the court certify it to make it official. If the two of you cannot agree, then you might need to go to court to have a judge decide where the child will live and when he or she will visit with the other parent.
Making custody agreements can be stressful, but the better you and your child’s other parent understand and embrace your custodial parent responsibilities, the better off everyone will be, and the easier it will get overtime. Keep in mind that the goal is to bring up your child in a loving and caring atmosphere, no matter whose house the child is often.
If you have primary custody, you should encourage your child to have a relationship with their other parent. If you do not have custody, you should keep up with visitation and in-between contact to maintain your child’s relationship. National Family Solutions can help. Contact us if you are unsure about what your custodial parent responsibilities are or if you need help navigating the system.