One parent who is considering divorce may think that their very stressful and unhealthy marital relationship will be sufficient reason for the courts to grant them sole custody. However, many people are surprised to learn that the courts prefer shared custody under almost all circumstances.
It is only when there is a compelling reason to believe that the children would be unsafe with one parent or that their needs will go unmet in a joint custody situation that the courts will give one parent far more time with the children or control over their daily lives than the other. Even in high-conflict situations, wherein parents can barely speak to each other, a judge will likely expect them to share custody.
How can parents protect their children from the acrimony in their relationship during a high-tension custody arrangement?
Keep custody exchanges brief
The less time parents spend interacting with one another during a drop-off or pickup, the better. If they can commit to minimizing verbal communication, so much the better. In some cases, families need to schedule custody exchanges at a neutral location, like a library parking lot. Other times, they may need someone both parents trust, like a former neighbor, to help facilitate the transfer and provide a buffer between the parents.
Document when things go wrong
It will not be beneficial to approach every interaction in a contentious manner and to passive-aggressively photograph, videotape or write down every mistake that happens in front of a co-parent. However, especially when someone suspects that their situation involves misconduct on the part of the other parent, they may need documentation to get support from the court.
One parent refusing to let the other have time with the children or trying to manipulate how the children perceive the other parents is serious misconduct that can truly harm the children in the family. The Texas family courts do not tolerate such behavior and expect parents to cooperate with one another.
Develop skills for dealing with intense emotions
Divorce can change someone’s personality and outlook on life, so they may need to spend some time reevaluating their circumstances and relearning certain skills. Seeing a therapist or counselor is often beneficial during or right after a divorce because people need help learning how to regulate themselves emotionally in the presence of their spouse. As an added bonus, that therapist can also provide support for a parent trying to help their kids process the stress of the divorce.
Seeking to minimize conflict whenever possible, focusing on healing and recognizing when action is necessary can help parents who are trying to effectively handle the stress of a high-conflict shared custody scenario.