The complex reality of sharing custody with your former spouse

Most people initiate divorce proceedings because they are unhappy in their marriage or experiencing serious issues with their spouse. In situations where the couple has children together, however, divorce will not be the end of the relationship. Instead, it will serve as a transition to a new form of relationship.

Divorced couples who share children will continue to interact frequently for the rest of their lives. While the children are young, couples will need to meet with one another to exchange custody. They will also likely see one another on holidays and at special events, such as school sports competitions and birthdays.

If you haven't already done so, you may want to spend some time thinking about your future co-parenting relationship. No matter how you feel about each another, you will still have to work together to raise your children in most cases.

Washington courts typically favor shared custody situations

The average couple going through a divorce in Washington can expect to share custody with one another. For any custody proceedings related to a divorce, the courts must always prioritize the best interest of the children. No matter how difficult it is for the parents to interact, the courts know that children typically adjust better to divorce when both parents remain a part of their lives.

There are situations in which one parent may receive primary or sole custody. These could include when one parent is an active duty military member, unable to provide daily care for the children. Other situations that can lead to one parent receiving sole custody include situations where one parent is abusive or has a problem with drug or alcohol addiction.

Unless your marriage falls into those more extreme categories, you need to prepare yourself for the reality of shared custody and co-parenting with your ex.

Do your best to keep things consistent and focused on your children

If you didn't agree on issues during your marriage, you and your ex may not agree about important parenting decisions after the divorce. That is one reason why Washington courts want divorcing couples to create thorough parenting plans that address concerns like discipline and educational expectations.

When rules are consistent from house to house, it is easier for children to comply with them. It can also prevent children from manipulating their parents by comparing them. Even with a thorough parenting plan to guide your decisions, you will likely experience some conflicts with your ex as you attempt to parent together. When that happens, you should not discuss the issues with your children or complain about the other parent to them or in front of them.

Instead, try to keep your children out of the problems that arise between parents. They should see you as a unified front, not two opposing forces. By focusing on the children, it may be easier for you and your ex to remain cordial during custody exchanges. They can also help reinforce the importance of not negatively influencing the relationship between your ex and the children.

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