Developing a Joint Custody Arrangement

You've finally got your divorce decree and you feel you can now breathe a big sigh of relief. You may even be thinking, "no more divorce attorneys, no more divorce negotiations and no more custody battles!! - I can finally get on with my life without my ex."

For the most part, you are right - your professional relationship with your divorce attorney is over, and you are now in a better position to make decisions about your future. However, here is the rub! As a parent in a joint custody arrangement, your relationship with your ex-spouse will continue as long as your children are part of both of your lives.

This reality check often comes as a huge shock to parents who are newly divorced. After all, the reason they chose to end their marriage was because they didn't get along and wanted to get away from each other. What now! Well, there is life after divorce, even for a joint custodial parent. The challenge for couples is to redefine their relationships and to develop cooperative co-parenting plans based on their shared concerns for their children.

In redefining a relationship, former spouses need to make some important shifts in thinking and feeling. An area of difficulty for many couples is making the shift from being emotionally married to being emotionally divorced; moving from a relationship based on intimacy to one that is more businesslike in nature. The major problems lie in the area of personal boundaries. People make the mistake of feeling that they still have the same call on each other as they did while married. For example, an ex wife may feel she is still entitled to know with whom her ex husband spends his time or how he spends his money. Likewise, an ex husband may feel he can still comment on how his ex wife parks the car or wears her hair. Once divorced, these issues should be of no concern to either ex partner. In essence, they are simply "none of each other's business". When couples make this shift in thinking and feeling, the old buttons that could be pushed, no longer work.. The emotional divorce is then complete.

In developing an effective and cooperative co-parenting plan, the following should be considered:

  • Each parent must recognize the other parent as being competent to care for the children and to have their best interests in mind
  • Each parent must be willing to give the other parent full authority to care for the children while they are in his/her care
  • Each parent must recognize that any criticism of the other parent made in the presence of the children is destructive and detrimental to their well-being
  • Each parent must be willing and able to put their personal feelings aside when communicating with the other regarding the children
  • Each parent must put their children's need for love, safety and security above their own needs.
  • When people are able to meet these challenges, they will experience the following benefits of being a joint custodial parent:
  • Having the peace of mind that their children are being cared for by someone who loves them and will place their interests above all
  • Having the time to devote to one's own personal interests without being concerned about the well-being of the children
  • Knowing that there is someone to share problems and concerns that may arise regarding the children

A joint custody arrangement can transform a once flawed relationship into a productive parenting effort where neither person feels that he or she is a "single" parent.

© 2008, Reena Sommer

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However often marriage is dissolved, it remains indissoluble. Real divorce, the divorce of heart and nerve and fiber, does not exist, since there is no divorce from memory. - Virgilia Peterson

Dr. Reena Sommer is an internationally recognized relationship and divorce consultant. She became widely known as a strong critic of domestic violence policies that failed to recognized the reciprocal nature of partner abuse.

Dr. Sommer has been an invited speaker to academic, government and lay audiences in Canada and the U.S.. In 1998, Dr. Sommer testified before the Joint Senate-House of Commons Committee on Custody and Access on the issue of domestic violence. More recently in April 2002, she was invited by the Canadian federal government to participate on a panel of experts on the issue of custody and access.

She has written extensively on relationship and family issues such as domestic violence, addictions, divorce and custody. Her interest in high conflict relationships led her toward developing expertise as a divorce consultant in the assessment and treatment of parental alienation syndrome under Dr. Richard Gardner. As well, Dr. Sommer recently completed her e-Book, The Anatomy of an Affair. A free condensed pdf version of the e-Book can be downloaded.

Dr. Sommer has produced three divorce related informational products which are currently available online in the form of downloadable audiofiles: Divorce 101: Things You are Unlikely to Hear from an Attorney; Developing an Effective Parenting Plan, and Preparing for a Custody Evaluation.

You are also welcome to sign up for a free mini-course, Arming Yourself for Your Custody Battle! See or for more information, please email us at E-Mail or 204. 487.7247 or fax: 204.487.3051  

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