When couples separate and move apart before the divorce, couples must overcome many questions and confusion over interim child custody. Although they may choose equal custody rights, spouses can do unwise things that can have negative circumstances and backfire on them later when a judge rules on a child custody dispute.
Engaging in self-help by taking unilateral actions and disregarding the other parent’s wishes can lead to these problems. Taking the children during unannounced visits is untenable and harmful to the children. In fact, the best interests of the child have priority over either parents’ needs. Children may have attachments to their current homes and friends, which should be considered in custody and visitation matters.
Equal custody agreements may sound attractive, but may not be practical unless both parents have a strong relationship, live close by and there is little disruption to the children’s routine. It may be more important to assure that each child has frequent contact with each parent than assuring that time is divided equally.
Parents oftentimes should, if possible, reach a temporary agreement on visitation and other child-related issues before the divorce, even if it is only verbal. They should keep communicating and keep each other informed about important matters, such as the children’s health, their activities and their school performance. However, children are not messengers between the parents. A parent should never criticize their spouse in front of the children.
Parents should also be flexible and agree to alternative schedules when visitation plans must change for unexpected events. Courts will later disapprove and take into consideration when a parent refuses contact between the children and their other parent. Parents, in addition to visits, should encourage telephone conversations and other communication between the other parent and their children.
Ongoing communication and agreement may eliminate some legal disputes and the need for a temporary custody order. However, a parent should seek legal assistance to help assure that a parent’s rights and the children’s best interests are protected during a divorce.
Source: Hawaii Army Weekly, “Child custody is often ‘no man’s land,'” 1st Lt. Andrew J. Harman, Nov. 20, 2017