Maryland divorce: How to prepare for dealing with joint custody

When parents in Baltimore County decide to divorce, they often face multiple choices and challenges relating to the custody of their children. Questions rise over who should retain physical custody and how much visitation or co-parenting time the non-custodial parent should have, among other issues.

Experts agree that it is vital for children to have both their mother and their father as a constant presence in their lives. In 2002, a psychologist with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that children were better adjusted and were less likely to get into trouble or have issues at school when both parents were around.

Many parents are beginning to understand this and are entering into joint custody agreements, according to Parents Magazine. However, such arrangements can breed problems unless parents address the issues that can rise with joint custody. By preparing for those issues beforehand, parents can work successfully together for the benefit of their children.

A permanent presence

One of the first things that both parents need to understand and accept is that the other parent is always going to have some form of presence in their life after the divorce is final. This means that the parents are going to come into contact with one another when the child has an important event such as a graduation, wedding and the birth of children.

Therefore, it is important for parents to work together for the best interests of their children. Parents should set aside personal feelings and grudges ,and parents should make a mutual commitment to work together and to encourage their children to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents.

Making decisions

Making decisions as to how the child should be raised could be a constant source of contention between ex-spouses if they allow it to be. A guide from the University of New Hampshire advises ex-spouses to put together a parenting plan that defines the decisions each parent will make as well as the decisions that will be made together.

These decisions include:

•· Eating habits

•· Bedtime

•· Emergency care

•· Internet/computer use

•· Extracurricular activities

•· Discipline

By taking the time to make these decisions beforehand, there will be fewer issues that arise between ex-spouses. Each parent will understand their role in their child's life and can feel that they have an influence on their child.

Avoid involving children in conflicts

Despite the best planning, conflicts between ex-spouses may arise. When they do, however, parents should make an effort to keep those conflicts private. Children can often find themselves caught between two parents, which can create feelings of anger, guilt, resentment and torn loyalty.

Parents should refrain from asking children about their ex-spouse, talking negatively about their ex-spouse in front of their children, and competing to be the most popular parent. Spouses can make agreements at the time of the divorce and in the joint child custody arrangement in how they will address future conflicts. Communication and cooperation between ex-spouses can resolve conflicts fairly quickly and prevent small issues from festering and growing into serious problems.

By parents taking the time to prepare for life as a co-parent, they can raise their children to be well-adjusted, happy adults. Speaking with an attorney experienced in joint custody can help parents understand what to prepare for and how they can work together with their ex-spouse.