Top Tips for Successful Joint Physical Custody

dad and son

Our legal team has handled hundreds of cases with issues surrounding the parent’s ability or inability to co-parent. Our attorney, Jeanette Soltys also shares joint physical custody of her son with her ex-husband.  Through working directly with parents in family law cases as well as through her own experience, Jeanette has identified factors that help determine the success of a joint physical custody arrangement where the children spend equal amounts of time with both parents.  If you have or are considering joint physical custody, the tips below can help your children thrive.

1.) Get past your negative feelings about your ex.

The relationship is over.  There is no need to dwell on negativity regarding what happened in the past, and all it will do is poison your co-parenting relationship and hold you back from being happy.  Seek therapy if you are having a hard time letting go.  You need to be able to move forward as a co-parent without your judgment clouded by negative feelings.

2.) Let go of needing to control.

Some people have very rigid ideas of what life should look like for the children while with the other parent, and conflict is created if the reality looks different.  Accept the fact that your ex now has their own completely separate life.  They will do things differently in their home than  you will in yours.  You may make homemade dinners and pack nutritious lunches, and your ex might feed the kids fast food more often than not and have them buy school lunch. Let it go.  You no longer get to have a say in all details of your ex’s life.  Recognize this and just focus on being the best parent you can during your time.

It is okay if the children have different rules in one house than another.  In fact, this can be a good lesson that is relevant even in adulthood.  The rules aren’t the same in your own home as they are in your workplace, your place of worship, and in your own parent’s house.  Rules that vary by setting is a part of life, and it’s okay if there are differences in  your house and your ex’s.

3.) Do establish some similarities between homes.

Some similarity in rules do help the child adjust best to going back and forth in between homes.  Rules that can help keep children transitioning with ease are keeping the same bedtime and time to wake up, having a similar evening routine where the children do tasks in a certain order, like homework first, dinner, bath, and then tv or reading a book.  Communicate with your ex to try to establish similarities in routines.

4.) Be open to co-parenting counseling.

Always be willing to seek co-parenting counseling if you and your ex are having trouble getting on the same page, or if you see the children are struggling.  A therapist can help with issues like creating similar routines, improving communication between co-parents, and giving advice on helping children adjust to changes like a new home, a parent dating or remarrying, accepting a new step-sibling, etc.

5.) Be flexible.

When the children go back and forth between homes, accept that you will often need to communicate with the other parent to deliver the school book, karate belt, or number of other items the child will leave at one parent’s home and forget to bring to the other.  Also be willing to help the other parent out when it’s in the best interest of your child.  Maybe your ex needs to switch weekends for a family reunion, or has to work late one night and could use your help picking up the child.  Instead of letting these situations frustrate you, have the attitude that you are still a team and both doing what you can to pitch in and make sure your children’s needs are met.

6.) Don’t bad mouth or pry.

This is needed in any custody situation, but is important enough to still mention.  Don’t ever speak negatively about your ex to the children – even if it’s true and even if you are deeply upset.  This is very damaging to a child.  Also don’t question the children about what happens with the other parent or try to monitor what happens during the other’s parenting time.

Some children are able to thrive in a joint physical custody situation and truly benefit from seeing both parents equal amounts of time, but it takes a strong co-parenting relationship to make the arrangement workable and healthy for all involved.


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