Shared Custody vs. Sole Custody
When it comes to legal custody, the difference between shared custody and sole custody really comes down to who has the decision-making power. In a sole custody arrangement, one parent makes the decisions. They may (and should) take input from the other parent, but the custodial parent has the final say.
If you have any type of shared legal custody, regardless of your physical custody situation, both parents have equal decision-making power by default. So even if your ex only takes the kids every other weekend, you'll still have to agree on any big decisions involving the children if you want to avoid going to court.
If you're going through an online divorce, it's important to be as specific and thorough in your custody plan as possible. This includes setting up a plan for things going on now and trying to anticipate and lay out a plan and custody schedule for when things arise in the future. The issues and types of decisions vary by family and change as the children age, but here are a few common categories you'll need to think about if you're planning on shared custody.
Planning for Shared Custody
It's not uncommon for parents to disagree about what kind of medical treatment their children should receive. This is also one of the most common issues that brings parents in front of a family court judge years after the divorce has been finalized. As you're working on your DIY divorce and outlining custody, it's a good time to bring up topics like well checks as well as how comfortable both of you are with homeopathic remedies and treatments. If your children are or plan to be involved in sports, you may want to address consent for surgical treatments in case of injuries.
If you can't come to a compromise, It's Over Easy has mediators and counselors on standby to help you work things out, and you can export all of your information and messages at any time to make it quick and easy to get an outside professional up to speed.
Many parents feel very strongly about what kind of education they want their children to have, and if you and your ex aren't in agreement in this area, it can cause issues. Common areas of contention include what kind of schooling is most appropriate.
The options today range from public and private to boarding, online and homeschool. Variations within these are all possible points of contention as well. Which public school district will your child attend? Are you dead set on watching your child walk onto the stage at your alma mater? If you're planning on going the homeschool route, which curriculum will you use? Will you focus on traditional learning methods or go for unschooling? Even if you agree on the type and place, there are still yearly decisions such as whether to specialize in a trade or take honors classes.
Do you think it's best to enjoy the social aspects of high school or to get as much academic benefit as possible by participating in a post-secondary program? These are all points you need to discuss as you move through the divorce process.
If your marriage was a case of opposites attract, this category (along with the next) could be the most difficult. If you have young children, there's probably not much to decide socially right now, but as your children get older, things get more complicated. What's your plan if your child gets involved with the "wrong" crowd? Do you think it's a good learning experience, or are you planning on only letting them hang out with approved friends? Is your child going to be allowed to go to parties or sleepovers and, if so, at what age or maturity level do you think that's appropriate?
While it's impossible to plan for every scenario that may pop up, it's important to recognize that these are all very common issues for older children and teenagers. It's a lot easier to talk to your ex now to see where you both stand on these matters than try to have a calm discussion when you just caught your child sneaking out of the house or with someone you don't want them around.
Laura Wasser, Family Law Attorney, explains what factors are considered when deciding a child's custody case. Video produced by Kids in the House.
Shared Custody Rules
One of the perks of divorce is that you get to run your household the way you and only you want to. Go ahead and leave the bed unmade for days, or organize your books with the Dewey Decimal system. But when it comes to family rules that involve the kids, you may still want to talk about things with your ex to keep things running smoothly.
While this category is similar to the social one above, it's focused a little more on day-to-day issues, such as:
- When your child will be allowed to get a smartphone
- What their curfew will be
- Whether they will get an allowance and how much
- Should they get a job in high school
While it's fine if you think the kids should be in by 10 p.m. and your ex is cool with 11:30, large inconsistencies between households can create opportunities for contention between you and your ex, as well as opportunities for your children to challenge the rules or try to play you against each other.
If it seems like you and your ex are on the same page with everything, that’s great. But keep in mind that it is not uncommon for people tend to change their minds throughout the divorce process. It is a good idea to outline your custody plan and the terms of your divorce when you are both in agreement, just in case someone changes their mind during the process.
If you and your spouse get stuck on something, but still want to stay out of Court, you can meet with a mediator who can help you try to reach an agreement on the terms of your divorce. If you are not sure what you want to do, you can check out more of our postings on mediation.